With an easier schedule and a depleted roster, to be honest, we really haven’t learned much about the 2018-19 Indiana Hoosiers just yet.
That is about to change. Goodbye cupcake city. Next stop, Duke and their Diaper Dandies.
Don’t worry, if you are not a fan, those references are not meant to hint that you are going to have to endure Dick Vitale for any of the upcoming big games. None that we know of, anyway. You will have to endure Jay Bilas back at his alma mater of Duke on Tuesday night, however.
But that’s nothing like what Indiana is about to endure.
With a five game power five conference opponent gauntlet looming, we should learn a lot more about where this year’s edition of IU basketball truly stands over the next three weeks.
Like most of the better college basketball programs around the country, Indiana’s early season schedule has had its share of, shall we say, highly winnable games.
With the team suffering through a truly remarkable number of injuries, the softer part of the schedule, while not always a cakewalk, has been welcomed with open arms.
It hasn’t been all freebies for Indiana, which is currently No. 22 in the KenPom rankings. The Hoosiers did face two KenPom top 50 opponents in Marquette and Arkansas, earning a split in its two tougher contests of the season.
But the remaining four opponents have all been outside of the top 200, with two residing outside of the top 300.
For the most part, the IU roster seems to be rounding back into health, and the timing couldn’t be better. Based on Archie Miller’s Monday press conference, it sounds like both Zach McRoberts and Devonte Green have a chance to see the floor on Tuesday at Duke.
Ready or not, the Hoosiers are about to majorly tested over their next five games, with every opponent residing in the KenPom top 60:
- November 27: at Duke (5-1, KenPom No. 1)
- December 1: vs. Northwestern (5-1, KenPom No. 46)
- December 4: at Penn State (3-2, KenPom No. 38)
- December 8: vs. Louisville (3-2, KenPom No. 59)
- December 15: vs. Butler (5-1, at Indianapolis, KenPom No. 29)
Tuesday night’s game at Cameron Indoor Stadium is by far and away the toughest test on the young season. Duke opened the season with a 34 point trouncing of Kentucky. More recently they have been brought back down to earth with a close loss to Gonzaga and a hard earned win over Auburn. The Blue Devils are always tough at home, and with several IU players including McRoberts and Green likely shaking off rust, this could be a tough night.
After Duke comes two December Big Ten contests for the second season in a row. Last year the league games were played early to accommodate the Big Ten Tournament, which was played a week earlier then normal in New York. This year, and presumably for all seasons going forward, the early games are required as the conference moves to a 20-game schedule.
Northwestern is off to a good start but is a bit of a tough read to this point. They split their two toughest games to date, losing to Fresno State and knocking off Utah. The Wildcats will play Georgia Tech in the Big Ten ACC challenge before coming to Bloomington.
Penn State is always tough at home under Pat Chambers, but they appear to be still figuring things out, especially on the offensive end. Early losses to Bradley and DePaul leave more questions than answers to this point. The Nittany Lions have two very tough tests before they host IU, playing at home against Virgnia Tech and then traveling to Maryland.
Under new head coach Chris Mack, Louisville is off to a 3-2 start. The Hoosiers and Cardinals already share a common opponent, with Marquette knocking off Louisville 77-74 on a neutral floor. After a 3-0 start, the Cardinals are facing their own difficult schedule with losses to Tennessee and Marquette, and contests looming against Michigan State and Seton Hall.
Butler is off and running and doing Butler things again. With wins already over Mississippi and Florida, you can be sure that the Bulldogs will once again present a tough test at the annual Crossroads Classic.
What does success look like during this five game stretch? 4-1 seems both doable and likely as good as it can get. While a win over Duke seems highly unlikely, the other four games are imminently winnable, and games that Indiana needs to win if they are a team that is ready to take things to the next level.
NOTE: You can see the full 2018-19 schedule here. For those of you that printed our a copy of the schedule from The Daily Hoosier, please note that the time of the Northwestern game this Saturday has been moved up to 1:00 p.m. to accommodate the Northwestern football appearance in the Big Ten championship game.
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