Hoosiers “looking forward” to challenging non-conference slate

  • 06/07/2016 9:38 am in

Indiana’s complete non-conference schedule for the 2016-17 season won’t be announced until the fall, but it’s already shaping up to be one of the most challenging in recent memory.

The Hoosiers will face three of the top 13 teams in the most recent ESPN.com top 25 for next season.

The regular season opener will be on Friday, Nov. 11 against Kansas, No. 4 in ESPN’s rankings, in the Armed Forces Classic at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Indiana will also face North Carolina, No. 6 in the ESPN rankings, in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Nov. 30 at Assembly Hall and Louisville, No. 13 in the ESPN rankings, on Dec. 31 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis

“Being at Indiana, that’s what we want to do is just play the best competition out there,” Thomas Bryant said of the schedule last week at Huber’s Winery. “Playing against those guys, that’ll bring the best out of all of us.”

The Wednesday game against North Carolina, which will be a headliner of ESPN’s coverage of the 18th annual Big Ten-Challenge, is a rematch of IU’s 2015-16 season-ending 101-86 loss to the Tar Heels in the East Regional semifinal in Philadelphia.

Bryant was asked last week if there’s a revenge factor involved with getting another shot at North Carolina.

“Come on now, you should know that,” he said with a smile. “We’re all looking forward to it.”

In addition to those three marquee games, Indiana will also play Butler in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Dec. 17 and IPFW on Nov. 22 at Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum.

Indiana was not selected to play in this season’s Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual event matching Big Ten and Big East programs. The Gavitt Tipoff Games run through 2022 and each Big Ten team will appear a minimum of four times. Indiana played Creighton in the inaugural year of the event last season.

The game with Louisville, which was announced in August of 2015, is a part of a three-year series that also includes games at the KFC Yum Center in 2017 and at Assembly Hall in 2018.

Indiana and Louisville last played in 2014 at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic.

“There’s very little wiggle room on our schedule with the Gavitt Cup, with the Crossroads Classic, with the Big Ten-ACC Challenge to put together a series,” Tom Crean said. “But this was one that made sense for both places, and I think it’ll be excellent.

“It’ll be a great, great test for both of us going into our league play. Hopefully it’ll be one of those games that is sold out early at Bankers Life. It’s a great day. Every time that we’ve played them, in my history as a coach, we always learned a lot about our team. Even at Indiana when we played them a couple years ago, we learned a lot. The thing that separates them, it’s not just how relentless some of them are. It’s how relentless all of them are, especially their guards.”

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  • BL4IU

    Going to be a fun preseason. Coach has plenty of returning players that have worked in his system and they can help quickly acclimate the new players; we should be solid from the opening tip. We can definitely win all three of the big match-ups with two caveats: (1) RJ, JBJ, JM and CH must be fully healthy, and (2) DD must be able to contribute productive back-up minutes right out of the gate. Biggest concern is DD getting off to a slow start because his off season work ls limited while recovering from the wrist surgery.

  • Ole Man

    KU has as much experience coming back and some great recruits coming in.
    Hopefully, we can keep it competitive!! LOL!
    PS: I think it will be a great game.

  • Watching TB’s reaction to that (idiotic) revenge factor question was tons of fun. This story really plays down how (respectfully) sarcastic TB was in answering (looked like he was channeling Bob Knight for a split second). Real gentle giant with a sharp wit who can show a bit of a monster side on the court. Love that kid’s personality and attitude, can’t wait to see him play next season and lead this team.

    I did not know we’re playing Kansas in the season opener. That’s crazy talk. Gonna be a challenge for a team that will be pulling together a number of parts and only then probably learning the status of some key injuries. A win would be huge to start the season off right, but no matter what the team will learn a great deal and benefit from the competition. Lose, and I’m sure they’ll react by working even harder to improve.

    Can we just skip the summer? It gets too damn hot in Southern California anyways.

  • As I think about it, given how competitive these players have proven themselves to be, my biggest fear about playing that level of competition the first game is that someone might push himself too hard too soon. A few cupcakes to start the season would let some players assess their health without so much pressure, and I’d hate for an injury to get aggravated. I know the coaching staff and medical team will do the right things, but the kids themselves have to know their own limitations as well.

  • I am Baby Cakes

    We can beat Louisville and Butler. We can beat UNC but wouldn’t be surprised if we lose that one. They’re going to be good again with Meeks, Hicks, Berry, Jackson and Pinson back. Kansas will be really good and super talented as always. But after last years Hawaii garbage… will our team be able to play in Hawaii? Or will we get beat by 50? We obviously can’t afford to go 0-4.. though it is possible.. at worst it needs to be a 2-2 split.

  • SCHoosier

    I remember after another bad defensive e showing early last season..TC said something like “Well we haven’t really worked yet on our switching defenses”. With this schedule..defense better be oiled land ready to go from game one or the Hoosiers will get embarrassed.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    excellent job getting these games in the preseason schedule! love the direction in which this program’s going. now if we can only snag a few of those top 50 guys we’re going after in the ’17 class. would especially love to see us land some of the top in state kids

  • Outoftheloop

    You have to play and beat great teams to be great! GO IU!

  • AndyCapp

    Looking into your crystal ball and thinking (not presuming) this might be TB’s last year, who do you think are the most important gets from the class of ’17?

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    was mainly thinking about the talented kids from indiana, not specifically what we’d need to replace. so scruggs, wilkes, malik williams (at 6’11”, he’d certainly fill a need), jaren jackson. and of course one or both of the top 10 guys we’re going after would be nice too. 😉

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    that’s right OOTL. i know you have to schedule some pushover teams too, but man did i get bored with all those noncompetitive games last season. if an opponent is so bad that you blow them out by 40 yet still have no clue whether or not your team is any good, it’s almost a waste of time IMHO.

  • Koko

    It will be a great game on the big stage out of the gate, in Hawaii, on a military base, probably wearing military themed uniforms. A good baptism under fire for the new kids. Nothing bad about this game except they might kick our butts.

  • Koko

    Are they using smaller balls or does TB have really big hands…..wow. TB is a big man!

  • BL4IU

    I’ll be really surprised and disappointed if we can’t “keep it competitive”.

  • TomJameson

    IU should have at least one, and maybe two, exhibition games … with maybe a week between the last one ant the start of pre-season.

    I share your concerns Mark, but hopefully that will help the team “ease” into a game time frame of mind.

  • TomJameson

    The real cupcake teams are usually set up for a paycheck for the lesser school, and to play a practice game against a team that may do one thing that CTC wants to practice against.

    I think they need to get rid of the 150+ guys and instead schedule the under 100 teams for their “practice” games. They would be more competitive, at least to the point that if IU fell asleep they could get beat. That should give them an edge.

    Plus, it would/could/should tell everyone something about the team.

  • TomJameson

    They need a big man for continuity. Thomas, De’Ron … Malik??

  • IUBizmark

    This statement is exactly why it’s so important that IU have roster stability. The offense is extremely complex to the point it takes several months to fully learn. When we have stability we can cut that number in half and turn to defense.

  • Zora Clevenger

    Obviously, NC, Louisville, Butler, and Kansas are rightly going to get all the attention, but the game in Fort Wayne will be a real eye-opener for the kids on the IU team. IPFW is usually mostly Indiana kids, and they will treat it like their tournament game, and FW is such a great IU town that the atmosphere will be just off the hook. I’m betting tickets will be gold on Stubhub.

  • Ah, yes, good point about exhibition games. In my excitement at seeing Kansas as the first regular-season game, forgot all about exhibitions. Agreed, that’s plenty to get a feel for where the recovering players are at.

  • Maybe I’m putting too much stock in TB’s attitude following the UNC loss, but I just have a feeling he’s going to be a driving force on this team next season. I expect him to come out looking for blood (in his big grinning monster teddy-bear fashion, of course) and demanding the same of his teammates..

  • Bill Graham

    I can’t say much for Williams now because I haven’t seen him play in a year but last year 14-15 a 6-1 kid in my hometown (high school game) ate him alive in the post…blocked his shots, boxed him out, stole it from him…Jackson would probably be the better get.

  • Bill Graham

    Opening with Kansas! In Hawaii! Nice! I’m liking this non-conf schedule I expect a few games against Piece’o’trash State and Neverheardofit U…but overall nice job so far on the schedule. Butler will be down a bit…but they’ll still be good with Lewis, Savage, Martin, Chrabascz, Wideman, Brunk, and Woodson. The real question is how will the fan base respond if IU drops a couple to good teams? I mean if we aren’t competitive and play lousy then theres room to light the CTC torches again…but what happens if we are competitive and lose to KU, UL, and UNC? Obviously I want us to go undefeated in non-conf but its just interesting to think about the ways our fanbase responds sometimes.

  • Koko

    It’s funny…there always seems to be that one guy or team that just causes trouble for a good player. I remember when Rick Mount came to Kokomo in his senior year. A guy you never heard of held Mount to 15 points and made him a none factor in that game. Mount just couldn’t get it going with the guy in his face all night. We know Mount went on to have a pretty good career. It could have just been one of those nights for Williams when you saw him play.

  • Koko

    So true on predicting how we/the fanbase will respond. Those three games are big games early on….which as you I like…..but we do have veterans on the team who have played in games like these. It will be up to the vets and TC to keep the new kids on an even keel and focused. I think those three games will be competitive and I will step out to say I think we will win two of them….one of which will be the UNC game. I see no way UNC will come into our house and win after last year…..TB will be nothing short of unstoppable in that game….just feed him the ball. I think we/the fanbase will be pleased with how we compete in those three games.

  • Bill Graham

    Very well said.