Indiana’s 2021-22 men’s basketball schedule sets up favorably for a first year head coach looking to get off to a good start.
New IU coach Mike Woodson won’t have to leave Bloomington or face a high major opponent until the last day of November. His Hoosiers will only face one Big Ten foe projected to be in the upper half of the league in their first seven conference contests, and the outlier of the seven is being played at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
IU’s biggest road test of its first 18 games (11 nonconference, 7 Big Ten) appears to be a Nov. 30 trip to Syracuse for the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. The Hoosiers will also face St. John’s in Bloomington in game three on Nov. 17 as part of the Gavitt Games and Notre Dame on Dec. 18 for the final edition of the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. Those three games are the lone high major foes on the slate for the nonconference. No team on the nonconference schedule is widely expected to be ranked in any preseason top-25s.
In Big Ten play IU will face Nebraska twice, host Minnesota and Ohio State, and travel to Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin for those first seven contests. Only the Buckeyes project as one of the top tier teams in the conference going into the 2021-22 season.
Based on those first 18 games, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that might Indiana to get off to a 13-5 or better start. It is a setup that Woodson said he was looking for when asked about scheduling in late May.
“My thing is I like to get a team in position first before we start chasing the big boys. I mean, I’m not afraid of competition. I want a team that’s competitive,” Woodson said.
Things will get more interesting in the back 13 games.
The Big Ten schedule ramps up fast in late January with a five game stretch that includes meetings with Purdue, Michigan, Maryland and Illinois. All four of those teams are expected to compete for the league crown. If there is a saving grace to that span it is that only the Maryland game will be away from Bloomington. It is IU’s most extensive Big Ten home stand, with four out of five on the Branch McCracken Court from Jan. 20 to Feb. 5 including three in a row.
But that stretch is followed by three of four games on the road, including trips to Michigan State and Ohio State.
Overall the final ten games of the Big Ten will test IU, with six games on the road including four of Indiana’s most challenging games away from home — Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State and the final game of the regular season at Purdue.
Looking at the schedule in its entirety, Woodson appears to be in a position to get things headed in the right direction in his first season coaching at his alma mater. It isn’t difficult to find at least 20 wins for Indiana in this schedule, and project a return to the top half of the league standings and the NCAA Tournament.
To see the complete 2021-22 IU and Big Ten schedule, GO HERE.
See also: Big Ten basketball rosters — who is gone, back and new in 2021-22
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