After nearly 48 hours to digest the 2011-2012 schedule, here are five thoughts on the slate of games Indiana will face beginning in early November:
1. In-state opponents a welcome addition
After just one non-conference game against an in-state opponent last season and zero the year before, the Hoosiers will play three teams from Indiana this season. A showdown at Assembly Hall with Butler in the Hoosier Invitational on November 27 might be the game fans are most looking forward to given the Bulldogs’ recent NCAA Tournament success. But games against Notre Dame at Conseco Fieldhouse in the Crossroads Classic and a trip to Evansville to play in the Aces’ new Ford Center should be equally competitive and entertaining.
2. Back home again in Indiana
With the exception of a trip to Raleigh to play North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Indiana’s entire non-conference schedule will be played in-state. Some may view this as a negative for a program that’s struggled to win away from Assembly Hall over the past three seasons. The Big Ten’s decision to give the Hoosiers a road game once again in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was probably a significant factor in IU’s decision to not seek out another non-conference road game. As it stands, two true road games (Evansville and N.C. State), two home games with Final Four teams from a season ago (Butler and Kentucky) and a neutral site game at Conseco Fieldhouse (also the home of the Big Ten Tournament), should do enough to have this group prepared.
3. Tough stretch to open Big Ten play
The Hoosiers will open the Big Ten against three of the league’s top four teams in Michigan State (away), Ohio State (home) and Michigan (home). The game at Michigan State is the conference opener and Indiana will return to Assembly Hall to face the Buckeyes on New Year’s Eve and the Wolverines five days later. For some perspective on how difficult it will be for the Hoosiers to win their Big Ten opener, consider this: Indiana has dropped 16 straight games in East Lansing and last won at the Breslin Center on February 28, 1991.
4. Single play draws not the most favorable
With the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten, the number of conference single plays increased to four this season. As announced back in June, Indiana will play the following teams just once: Illinois (home), Nebraska (away), Northwestern (home) and Wisconsin (away). While the Hoosiers did get the Badgers, who will likely be picked to finish second in the league, just once, the meeting is in Madison. Add that with the fact that Indiana drew single plays for three of the six teams The Sporting News projects to finish in the bottom six of the conference and it’s safe to say the Hoosiers drew one of the shorter straws.
5. Guarantee games
Season ticket holders may not perk up in their seats at the thought of hosting teams like Gardner Webb, Howard and Savannah State, but guarantee games have become a way of life in college basketball. Skim through schedules from teams across the country and you’ll find them. Indiana has eight games at Assembly Hall that probably fall in this category based on RPI finishes from a season ago:
Stony Brook: 242
Savannah State: 258
Gardner Webb: 261
North Carolina Central: 275
The danger, of course, in scheduling opponents not in the top 200 of the RPI is the adverse effect it could have on Selection Sunday if you’re a team fighting for one of the final at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament.
Filed to: 2011-2012 schedule