Indiana fans have circled the date and started making hotel reservations in Lawrence, Kansas for December 17, 2022.
The Hoosiers announced earlier this week their plan for a home-and-home series with the Kansas Jayhawks. The first game will be played at Allen Fieldhouse with the 2023 return game taking place at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
For first year head coach Mike Woodson, the mini-series was constructed with the fans in mind.
“Well, look at both programs. Kansas has got great tradition, man, got a great coach in Bill (Self) down there. I just think fans want to see games like that,” Woodson said of the upcoming schedule during a Thursday afternoon media availability.
The last time the two teams met was in 2016 in the Armed Forces Classics in Honolulu, HI. The Hoosiers secured the 103-99 win in overtime behind James Blackmon Jr.’s 26 points. Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
All-time, the Hoosiers hold an 8-6 record over the Jayhawks including wins in the 1940 and 1953 NCAA Championship games. However, in recent years Kansas has had much more success than Indiana.
The Jayhawks have made the NCAA Tournament — with the exception of the 2019-20 season due to Covid– for 31 straight years. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers haven’t been to the big dance since the 2015-16 season. Kansas looks strong once again this year, currently the No. 7 ranked team nationally with an 8-1 record.
“I think you’ve got to challenge your team as you move forward. As we’re building this, we’ve got to challenge ourselves with big time programs, and Kansas sits right at the top.” Woodson added.
Woodson and athletic director, Scott Dolson, are not done trying to strengthen their future schedules. A week ago, according to 247Sports, Indiana was in talks to play in the 2023 Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden.
If scheduled they would likely play two games out of their rivals from across the Ohio River in Louisville, the Texas Longhorns, and UConn. It would put IU in more of a national spotlight and provide a more challenging nonconference schedule than the Hoosiers saw this season. And, Woodson previewed that more battles against rivals and blue bloods may be on the horizon.
“Somehow if I can get the Kentucky series back, I would love to get that back with Cal because I just think that’s what fans want to see,” Woodson said. “Maybe we get a game with UCLA or somebody out west.”
The Kansas game is on-tap for next season, however, the Crossroads Classic, historically held on the same weekend in Indianapolis, will not be.
For the last decade, IU, Notre Dame, Butler, and Purdue battled for their fans in the Circle City. However, the event will end after this weekend.
For in-state players, it offers them a chance to play in front of friends and family. 22 players between the four teams are from Indiana and a handful from Indianapolis. Despite the cancellation of the event, Woodson– a Broad Ripple native– wants to see games continued to be played in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“It’s very important. I mean, that’s home for me, man. That’s where I grew up,” said Woodson. “Give my family an opportunity, and friends, to come out and see us play. Not that they don’t come down the road, 37, to see us here in Bloomington.
“For me, it’s sentimental. I love Indianapolis and everything that it has to offer. It would be nice if we could get a game here in the future.”
On Saturday, IU will take on a Notre Dame team that is fresh off an upset victory over Kentucky, which was ranked No. 21 at the time. Even though they are just 4-4 on the season, the Irish have a dangerous team led by Mike Brey.
“They’re well coached. He’s done a hell of a job over the years there at Notre Dame,” Woodson said of Brey. “They’ve got a veteran ball club that’s been together a while, so their system is in place. They know each other really well. So we’ve got to combat that as well.”
Dane Goodwin, Blake Wesley, and Paul Atkinson lead a three-headed, double-digit scoring attack. Goodwin leads the way with 14.3 points per game and is shooting 42.1 percent from downtown.
Atkinson and Nate Laszewski lead the way down-low. Laszewski leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game, while Atkinson averages six rebounds per contest. The two are the only bigs on the roster standing as tall as 6-foot-10-inches.
The Irish tend to lean on their guards to spread the floor. They average 25 threes a game, which ranks 91st in the nation. Laszewski, as a forward, averages 4.3 attempts from deep per game.
“Their perimeter play is what drives them. I think, when I watch film on them, they’re very organized. I like the way they play on both ends of the floor,” added Woodson.
“We got to commit ourselves for 40 minutes to come out of Bankers Life with the win. It’s not going to be a game where we go in and think it’s going to be easy. We’ve got to compete for 40 minutes and see what happens.”
For the Hoosiers, this will be their third game away from home. They started off slow in their first trip against Syracuse before almost completing a 16-point comeback. Then it was the opposite at Wisconsin. IU had a 17-point lead before ultimately seeing it collapse. This time they’re trying to put together a complete effort.
“I think our guys know that they can compete on the road but we’ve got to finish it. That’s the name of the game,” said the first-year coach. “You’ve got to finish to get that feel of what it’s like to win on the road.”
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