Last year, right around this time, I made a relatively bold prediction about our Indiana Hoosiers. I predicted — nay, demanded — that they win 25 games in the regular season. That was, of course, before the nonsense derailed the Hoosiers and saw them end their season with a meek tournament performance. Weak.
This year, I harbor no such illusions. It’s not that the schedule’s (view here) tougher — it’s that this IU team is so much less talented, so less lauded, and so obviously the first phase of long-term rebuilding. And that’s OK. We all know it. No one is setting the bar too high.
Merficully, the schedule doesn’t start with the impossible out-of-conference schedule Mike Davis saddled himself with. Tom Crean’s first Hoosier team will face only three early challenges in the non-conference portion: Notre Dame, Kentucky, and Wake Forest. Making matters worse, none of the three is at home; Notre Dame will be during the Maui Invitational, Wake Forest is in Wake Forest, and IU will travel to Lexington for the Wildcat revenge. Yikes.
Once the conference season starts, things don’t look much better. Instead of detailing the losses, let’s take a look at the games that we know — absolutely know — IU can win:
— Jan. 7 vs. Michigan
— Jan. 17 vs. Penn State
— Feb. 4 vs. Iowa
And that’s about it. (When I was taking some quick cursory notes about the schedule, next to Penn State I actually wrote “win!”, complete with the exclamation point, because I was so excited to be sure that IU could win one game. No Geary Claxton! Whoo!)
Then, of course, are the rivalry games. I don’t hold much hope for our one game against Purdue this season; the Boilermakers will be well-oiled and the game is at the (Bud) Mackey Arena. But as long as we get one — just one — of the two games with Illinois this year, I will be happy. Incredibly, deliriously happy. The rest is just a bonus.