If Indiana is still in the NCAA Tournament hunt at the end of the month, it could face an unusually daunting and unexpected gauntlet before it can look forward to any postseason action.
As it stands right now, Indiana has a lone game scheduled in its final week of Big Ten regular season play. That game, a road trip to Purdue, will be challenging enough given IU’s long losing streak to its rival. But the week could get far more difficult.
Indiana’s current schedule includes a home game against Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 27, followed by that road trip to West Lafayette a week later on March 6 to close things out.
IU has had two games postponed thus far — both trips to the Great Lakes State. The Hoosiers were gifted two separate weeks off as a result of the postponement of trips to East Lansing and Ann Arbor to face Michigan State and Michigan, respectively. The league has been endeavoring to reschedule postponed games, and now Indiana’s last open week on the slate appears to be the target to make-up at least one and probably both trips to the state of Michigan.
IU radio voice Don Fischer hinted earlier this week on Archie Miller’s radio show that the final week appears to be a prime candidate to make-up the postponed games. Miller knows that whenever those games are played, it is going to create challenges.
“We’ve still got two more to figure out when they’re going to drop them on us,” Miller said on the radio show this week, referring to the Big Ten’s expected decision to reschedule the two trips to Michigan. “It’s difficult to be able to put these games in there, you just look at Penn State and Michigan State coming off of their hiatuses with COVID, all of the sudden they’re ramped up very fast, with Penn State playing about five games in ten days, and I think Michigan State started on a Thursday to Sunday to Tuesday. You’re going to have to get them in.”
Michigan State currently has no games between Feb. 28 and March 7, while Michigan is open from Feb. 28 through March 3. As stated above, Indiana and Michigan already play in Bloomington on Feb. 27, so a quick home-and-away with the Wolverines would appear to be a good solution. Something along the lines of a game in Ann Arbor on March 1, and a game in East Lansing on March 3 or 4 appears to be the decent bet right now, although Michigan has a total of four games to reschedule.
There are also a couple of three day gaps in Indiana’s current February schedule where the league could attempt to squeeze in a game if it had to. Indiana already has some experience playing games on a quick turnaround after its three games in three days trip to Asheville, N.C. for the Maui Invitational. But Miller would prefer to not see a repeat of that kind of strain on his players.
“For us, hopefully they drop those games in hopefully where you have a couple days in between,” he said. “We’ll see when they come, but whenever they come you just have to be ready to go. Sometimes when you’re in the rhythm of games, a couple games in a quick duration is a good thing.”
Indiana stayed on the road between a Jan. 7 game at Wisconsin and a Jan. 10 game at Nebraska. That was possible in-part because classes had not resumed, but with almost everything virtual, IU might look to stay on the road to alleviate some of the travel burden.
The Hoosiers will need to do whatever they can to make life easier, because a season ending stretch of two games vs. No. 4 Michigan followed by road trips to Michigan State and Purdue, all in eight days, would be about as brutal as it gets.
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