(Photo Credit: IndianaHQ)

In light of today’s Big Ten media day event, team team continues our preseason predictions and walks through the Indiana’s Big Ten schedule, which has now been expanded to 20 games. Coaches and players were happy to find out that the league has reduced the number of short one-day turnarounds, where teams just had a mere single day of rest between games. Our special guest predictors Nithin and Sudhin Krishnan return back with additional insights and more takes.

12/1 Northwestern

The Hoosiers open December and Big Ten play with a home game against Chris Collins and Northwestern. The Wildcats are coming off of a disappointing 15-17 season, considering just the year before they finished a historic 24-12 and reached their first ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Northwestern loses two players to transfer and three players to graduation, including Indiana native Bryant McIntosh who averaged no less than 11.4 ppg for each of his four years in Evanston. The Wildcats also pick up a graduate transfer in Ryan Taylor that averaged 21.2 ppg in his last season with the Evansville Aces and will be immediately eligible.

  • Rob: IU by 16
  • Mike: IU by 12
  • Sudhin: IU by 8
  • Nithin: IU by 5

12/4 @ Penn State

Last year’s only post-season champion from the Big Ten, Penn State, takes the second early conference slot on Indiana’s schedule. The NIT champions lose key production in Shep Garner who graduated and Big Ten scoring leader Tony Carr who declared for the NBA draft early. Lamar Stevens will surely be go-to player on the court for head coach Pat Chambers. The junior guard decided to return back to State College after his 15.5 ppg season where he started all 39 games. The only match up against the Nittany Lions takes place in the Bryce Jordan Center and will be a great Big Ten road test in early December.

  • Rob: IU by 8
  • Mike: IU by 15
  • Sudhin: IU by 12
  • Nithin: PSU by 2

1/3 Illinois

A month later and after the holiday break, Indiana goes back into the thick of the Big Ten portion of the schedule with a contest against Illinois. Also in his second year as head coach, Brad Underwood has an interesting challenge ahead of him to make do with his sparse arsenal of tools. While on one hand he was able to land one of the most impactful new adds to the league in top three combo guard Ayo Dosunmu, the Illini have had significant roster issues this offseason. The team faced the departures of nine total players – five graduated, three transferred, and one departure return back home overseas.

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  • Rob: IU by 18
  • Mike: IU by 9
  • Sudhin: IU by 15
  • Nithin: IU by 31

1/6 @ Michigan

Last year’s runner up will be without their main paint presence Moritz Wagner who now currently plays for the Lakers. To fill the gap, John Beilein brings in a top recruiting class headlined by once-Indiana-target Brandon Johns out of East Lansing, MI. The Wolverines also return 13.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg guard Charles Matthews and postseason hero Jordan Poole. If one or two other players on the roster can step up for Michigan and surprise analysts, the rest of the Big Ten will be fearing the Blue come the new year.

  • Rob: Michigan by 1
  • Mike: IU by 1
  • Sudhin: IU by 10
  • Nithin: Michigan by 5

1/11 @ Maryland

Since Maryland has joined the conference, the Xfinity center has always been a tough destination for the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers have gone 0-2 in recent road games against the Terps. Positives for Indiana in this matchup include departures of Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson to the NBA. Maryland reloads as much of that talent as possible. Although most recruiting sites believe that Indiana has the top class of 2018 in the Big Ten, the only other contender for the title is Mark Turgeon’s group. Additionally they bring back to College Park leading scorer Anthony Cowan Jr. and NBA prospect Bruno Fernando.

  • Rob: Maryland by 5
  • Mike: IU by 5
  • Sudhin: IU by 8
  • Nithin: IU by 2

1/14 Nebraska

Nebraska suffered two early tournament losses to end last season. One against the eventual Big Ten tournament champions Michigan and the other in the NIT first round against Mississippi State. Since those losses and a draft declaration, leading scorer James Palmer Jr. needed to determine if he wanted to remain in the NBA draft and forgo his remaining eligibility or if he wanted to return to play for Tim Miles. He chose the latter and becomes the third highest returning scorer for the conference.

  • Rob: IU by 5
  • Mike: Nebraska by 10
  • Sudhin: IU by 12
  • Nithin: IU by 7

1/19 @ Purdue

As one of the protected rivalry matchups, Indiana and Purdue will play home and away for each season in the foreseeable future. The first of the pair will take place in West Lafayette when the Hoosiers travel up I-65 after a five day rest period. Carsen Edwards, the leading scorer among return Big Ten players, will truly be Painter’s on-court leader as the Boilermakers lose their starting core of Vince Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias, and P.J. Thompson. Mackey Arena is a tough environment, especially when the Hoosiers come to town. On top of that, another storyline layer in would Archie Miller’s successful recruiting of once believed to be Purdue leans – Lafayette native Rob Phinesee and South Bend’s Damezi Anderson.

  • Rob: Purdue by 3
  • Mike: IU by 20
  • Sudhin: IU by 2
  • Nithin: IU by 5

1/22 @ Northwestern

In the second contest against the Wildcats, the Hoosiers will be visiting the newly finished Welsh-Ryan Arena ($110 million project) for their very first time. Fans packed the arena even with not so great attendance, mostly since the size of the arena only held a little over 8,000. Ironically, after the renovations, the capacity of the gym shrinks even more. We will find out if the building improvements encourage the fans in Evanston to show up with more intensity to support their team.

  • Rob: IU by 10
  • Mike: IU by 6
  • Sudhin: IU by 5
  • Nithin: IU by 2

1/25 Michigan

The return game for the Wolverines takes place just three days later. You can bet that Indiana fans have this game circled on the calendar. The last time a national runner up visited Bloomington the following season was when Indiana defeated North Carolina 76 to 67 in 2016. If analysts are correct, this game may have powerful implications on which team will prevail as the top team in the final conference standings.

  • Rob: IU by 1
  • Mike: Michigan by 5
  • Sudhin: IU by 3
  • Nithin: IU by 15

1/30 @ Rutgers

Indiana pays Rutgers a visit before closing out January and they will visit a Rutgers team that has lost their star point guard Corey Sanders to the NBA draft. Steve Pikiell in his second year is looking for the same success that he had against the Hoosiers to close out last year’s Big Ten tournament, where Rutgers upset the Hoosiers 76-69 in Madison Square Garden. Fans that were hoping to see internet sensation Mac McClung will be disappointed since he decommitted from the Scarlet Knights last October, instead electing to play for Georgetown.

  • Rob: IU by 18
  • Mike: IU by 35
  • Sudhin: IU by 20
  • Nithin: IU by 9

2/2 @ Michigan State

After a quick two day rest, the Hoosiers get right back on the road and travel north to East Lansing to face the Spartans. Indiana has gone 0-4 in the last four contests at the Bresling Center. With the departures of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. to the NBA (both of which were drafted in the early first round), having more talent this year would be a difficult argument to make for Michigan State. That being said, the team may not have lost as much production as most would think. Miles Bridges increased his points per game by 0.2 since his freshman year, but his rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per game all decreased. Jaren Jackson Jr. had trouble staying on the floor and only saw a tad over 20 minutes per game. He was selected fourth overall in the 2018 NBA draft, but that was mostly due to potential and ridiculous physical attributes rather than past performance.

  • Rob: IU by 5
  • Mike: MSU by 10
  • Sudhin: MSU by 5
  • Nithin: MSU by 20

2/7 Iowa

The storyline for Iowa is that while they have a more veteran team, they only have one rostered senior in Nicholas Baer. In his 9th season with the Hawkeyes, Fran McCaffery has the task of getting the Hawkeyes to big dance for only the fourth time during his tenure. Since the three consecutive trips between 2013 and 2016, Iowa has not broken 20 wins and has not made the postseason. 6’11” Jack Nunge, Indiana native from Cathedral high school, may be one of the most overlooked players coming into the season. He is not the most dominant post player, but his size and shooting ability allows Iowa to spread the floor and give Tyler Cook more space in the lane.

  • Rob: IU by 19
  • Mike: IU by 12
  • Sudhin: IU by 10
  • Nithin: IU by 5

2/10 Ohio State

Chris Holtmann has done a tremendous job to get the Buckeyes back on their feet and dressed in winning fashion. Fanbases cannot help but to compare the trajectory of the Buckeyes with Chris Holtmann with Archie and the Hoosiers. Both coaches now in their second year, inherited a less than ideal team but have also done a great job on the recruiting trail. OSU certainly had the more successful season last year and is currently has the highest rated Big Ten recruiting class for 2019 – including DJ Carton who had OSU, Indiana, and Michigan as his final three. Indiana, on the other hand, has that title for 2018. Without the services of Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop and three graduated seniors, the Buckeyes will be also be one of the youngest teams in the conference with only two seniors: one graduate transfer from Wake Forest, Keyshawn Woods, and one walk-on senior Joey Lane.

  • Rob: IU by 14
  • Mike: IU by 18
  • Sudhin: IU by 5
  • Nithin: IU by 11

2/16 @ Minnesota

Surrounded by the drama regarding Reggie Lynch’s departure, the Minnesota game last season was a coming out party for Justin Smith and a reinvigoration for Robert Johnson. As a team, the eye test reinforced that they were beginning pick up on Archie’s defensive concepts and they were starting to play more as a unit. Expectations for this year’s game at the Barn are going to be much higher. Indiana’s year of experience under Archie Miller combined with a top recruiting class should prove to be a tough outing for the Gophers. Player to watch: Race Thompson playing for the first time as a Hoosier in his home state.

  • Rob: IU by 22
  • Mike: IU by 7
  • Sudhin: Minnesota by 3
  • Nithin: IU by 5

2/19 Purdue

Carsen Edwards, Matt Haarms, and Nojel Eastern come to Bloomington and will likely experience one of the rambunctious college basketball environments all season. Romeo Langford versus the rivaled Boilermakers will surely pack Assembly Hall to the brim. Unless other players for Painter step up such as Evan Boudreaux (graduate transfer from Dartmouth) or freshman point guard Eric Hunter (Indianapolis native from Tindley), the Boilermakers are going have a rough evening down south.

  • Rob: IU by 10
  • Mike: IU by 18
  • Sudhin: IU by 8
  • Nithin: IU by 23

2/22 @ Iowa

In recent years, the games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena have been fairly competitive. The Hoosiers have won 2 out of the last 3 meetings in Iowa City. Either team has won with a margin of victory of 6 or less in those games. Will Iowa be able to fill up the 15,200 seats and create a tough environment for the Hoosiers?

  • Rob: IU by 5
  • Mike: IU by 13
  • Sudhin: IU by 4
  • Nithin: Iowa by 4

2/26 Wisconsin

The one-time play against Ethan Happ and the Badgers will be in the setting of Assembly Hall. Happ is truly a candidate to be the league’s Player of the Year. Scoring just a hair shy of 18.0 ppg, Ethan Happ played effectively earning points on over 52% of his field goals. As Greg Gard alluded to during his Big Ten media interview, the Badgers began to pick up steam near the end of last season, but unfortunately was not able to convert that to any post-season presence. They will hope to continue that momentum early next season. Romeo Langford luckily may avoid playing at the Kohl Center altogether for his entire career.

  • Rob: Wisconsin by 4
  • Mike: IU by 10
  • Sudhin: IU by 8
  • Nithin: IU by 3

3/2 Michigan State

To kick-off the critical month of March, the defending Big Ten champions come into Bloomington where they only snuck by with a 3 point win for the same contest last year. Recall that ESPN revealed a breaking news story regarding multiple player and administrative misconduct at Michigan State that backdropped the game in a cloud of uneasiness. Students and fans represent really well whenever the Spartans come to town, so you can put money on having a raucous Assembly Hall.

  • Rob: IU by 3
  • Mike: IU by 2
  • Sudhin: IU by 10
  • Nithin: IU by 3

3/7 @ Illinois

The Hoosiers end their last three-day turnaround by visiting the Illini and hope to build up confidence playing Illinois and Rutgers before going to the Big Ten tournament, hosted this year in Chicago between March 13-17. Unfortunately for Indiana, this is not a match up for the team to overlook. The team lost to a then 0-7 Illini team when they last played in the State Farm Center against Brad Underwood’s aggressive guard defense style.

  • Rob: IU by 13
  • Mike: IU by 22
  • Sudhin: IU by 15
  • Nithin: IU by 5

3/10 Rutgers

Senior day against Rutgers… at Assembly Hall. That’s probably all that needs to be said. Expect a big game from seniors Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts.

  • Rob: IU by 22
  • Mike: IU by 30
  • Sudhin: IU by 18
  • Nithin: IU by 20

A Final Word:

Rob (Prediction: 16-4 conference):

Last year’s Big Ten was extremely top heavy, which made it a bit more difficult to use conference play as a litmus test. I also think it contributed to why the Big Ten only had four teams in the tournament. Now the Big Ten is a lot more balanced with teams in the middle pack, like Indiana, improving and with teams at the top, such as Michigan State, not nearly as unchaseable. I fully anticipate more conference invitations to the big dance, and Indiana has the tools to turn heads on the dance floor.

Mike (Prediction: 15-3 conference):

Big Ten games are always difficult to predict. Any team can win on a given night. Luckily, this year, IU has all of the tools to be successful. If healthy, they could come close to running the table but that almost never happens in such a difficult conference. Look for a few hiccups but expect a lot of Ws.

Sudhin (Prediction: 18-2 conference):

It seems like IU should be favored for most of these games, which is nice because coach Archie Miller was coaching a group of guys last year that were almost always underdogs and managed to stay competitive in many of those games. This year is all about how Archie has an arsenal of weapons to choose from, utilize, and rotate in and out of the game. Two Big Ten losses might seem too little in this impressive conference, however, teams like MSU, OSU, Michigan, Purdue, and even Penn State have lost impressive scoring leaders to the NBA. IU finishes the season with only 4 losses, becoming a first seed in March, and perhaps capturing the Big Ten tournament title for the first time ever.

Nithin (Prediction: 16-4 conference):

It’s time for the Big Ten gauntlet. There is no such thing as an easy game, especially away from the friendly confines of Assembly Hall. As a fan, I love the idea of expanding the number of conference games. Give me more Purdue, if it means less Jacksonville and Montana State. The Hoosiers might stumble a few times, but that’s okay. Last year’s national runner-up, Michigan, lost five out of 18 in conference play. One outside-the-box prediction? I think graduate transfer Evan Fitzner will lead the Hoosiers in 3-point percentage in conference play.

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