Indiana Basketball: The 8 Most Anticipated Matchups for the Hoosiers in 2013-14
The Indiana Hoosiers are coming off of their first outright Big Ten Championship since 1993, and there will continue to be high expectations for the future despite the loss of seven players from last season's roster.
Tom Crean has put together another highly touted recruiting class for the second year in a row. Last year's four-player freshman class was ranked 11th by ESPN—Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin. This year's incoming freshmen topped that combination and was ranked fourth in the country by ESPN.
As IU's young team moves forward with its summer workouts with the start of the season a few months away, several games stick out on the schedule. The Hoosiers no longer have an annual marquee home-and-home matchup like they did with Kentucky for many years. However, between IU's Big Ten and nonconference schedules, there are more than enough exciting matchups for the Hoosiers and their fans this season.
The games are ranked based on the strength of Indiana's opponents and previous matchups between the schools.
Indiana is playing in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden this December. Four teams are attending—Indiana, Boston College, Connecticut and Washington. IU plays Washington in the first round and then one of the other schools based on the results of the games.
Connecticut would be a big opponent for Indiana. The Huskies were 20-10 last season, but they were ineligible for the postseason because of low Academic Progress Rate scores. Shabazz Napier, who was on UConn's 2011 national championship team, will be a senior. He averaged more than 17 points, four rebounds and four assists per game as a junior.
Additionally, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun, who all averaged double figures in scoring last season, will be back in action for the Huskies.
There is no guarantee that an Indiana-UConn matchup will be played in December, but it would be a good litmus test for the Hoosiers. The Huskies are experienced, they have a talented starting lineup and they're hungry for the postseason after their one-year ban.
Indiana's first Big Ten game of last season was on the road against Iowa. The Hoosiers, who were ranked fifth in the country at the time of the matchup, were pushed by the Hawkeyes but escaped with a four-point victory.
The schools only meet once this year, and the game is being played at Indiana. Iowa was 25-13 last season and lost in the NIT Championship to Baylor. The Hawkeyes return almost every player from last year's squad, which means that they could be a sleeper in the Big Ten to win the conference.
6. Ohio State
Indiana and Ohio State split their games against each other last season as each team won decisively on the opponent's home floor.
Ohio State lost Deshaun Thomas—the Buckeyes forward who averaged nearly 20 points per game—to the 2013 NBA draft, but the team still has a handful of talented players.
Aaron Craft is one of the best defenders in college basketball and junior LaQuinton Ross seems poised for a breakout season after his stellar performances in the NCAA tournament last season.
Ohio State has enough returning talent, plus the 37th-best recruiting class in the country, according to ESPN, to be among the teams who could contend for a Big Ten Championship.
5. Notre Dame
One of the best parts of college basketball in the state of Indiana is the Crossroads Classic, which includes Indiana, Butler, Notre Dame and Purdue. Indiana and Purdue never play each other since they play in the same conference, which means that the schools alternate playing Butler and Notre Dame.
Indiana's first loss of the season last year was at the Crossroads Classic, where Butler defeated the Hoosiers in overtime.
IU plays Notre Dame this season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 14, per Inside the Hall. Notre Dame is entering its first season in the ACC, and the Fighting Irish return many of their key contributors. Notre Dame's leading scorer, Jerian Grant, is returning along with Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton.
The Fighting Irish also have the 17th-best 2013 recruiting class, according to ESPN.
Notre Dame has a flair for dramatic games. The Fighting Irish played four overtime games last season, including a five-overtime affair with Louisville, which was fueled by Grant scoring 12 points in the final 28 seconds of regulation.
This year's matchup against Notre Dame should be highly anticipated as both teams look to pick up a key nonconference win to boost their resumes early in the season.
Purdue's incoming freshman class (38th in the country, according to ESPN) doesn't compare to IU's, but the Boilermakers should have just as much, if not more, returning talent.
The Hoosiers' young squad will have to play in a very hostile environment at Purdue, and the crowd will almost certainly single out senior Will Sheehey.
Terry Hutchens, formerly of the Indianapolis Star and USA Today, wrote that the officials had to tell Tom Crean to calm down Sheehey during last year's game at Purdue:
He also endeared himself to the Purdue crowd after he scored on a drive and was fouled with 9:07 remaining. Sheehey pounded his chest and yelled and pointed in the direction of Purdue's student section, the Paint Crew.
The game officials asked IU coach Tom Crean to calm his player down and at the next timeout Crean did grab Sheehey around the waist and talk with him for a moment.
Emotions run high in the Indiana-Purdue rivalry, and with only one guaranteed game between the schools next season, the teams will leave it all on the court in West Lafayette.
The Indiana-Michigan rivalry last season was one of the best in college basketball.
Michigan traveled to IU, ranked first and third, respectively, on February 2 and lost by eight.
On March 10 in Ann Arbor, Indiana won its final regular-season game by one point as Michigan failed to knock down its final layups. After the win, Tom Crean had a heated exchange with Michigan assistant coach (and former Indiana assistant) Jeff Meyer.
Plus, Michigan's Trey Burke and IU's Victor Oladipo were competing throughout the season in the national Player of the Year race.
While Burke and Oladipo left their respective schools for the NBA, the IU-Michigan matchups should still be compelling in the future.
The Wolverines return sophomores Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and the nearly legendary Spike Albrecht. McGary and Robinson III will likely be first-round draft picks next summer, which means that Michigan has the makings to be a Top 10 team this season.
2. Michigan State
Similarly to IU, Michigan State lost in the Sweet 16 in last year's tournament. When looking at the college basketball landscape for the 2013-14 season, the Spartans are poised to be one of the top five teams in the country.
Michigan State returns senior guard Keith Appling, sophomore standout Gary Harris and senior forward Adreian Payne, who opted to return to East Lansing, Mich. for his last year of eligibility. In fact, Tom Izzo only lost one major contributor, Derrick Nix, from last year's squad.
IU swept last year's series against Michigan State by a combined nine points. Michigan State has the superior roster this season and will look for revenge in both of this season's matchups.
There are also two subplots between these schools.
First, Tom Crean used to be an assistant coach under Izzo in the late 1990s.
Additionally, there is hostility from the IU student body toward Harris, who elected to attend Michigan State instead of staying in his home state and becoming a Hoosier.
The Hoosiers and their fans still have a bitter taste in their mouths from last season's Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse. Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls were held scoreless by the Orange's 2-3 zone, and Cody Zeller was swallowed up by at least two defenders whenever he touched the ball on offense.
There will be different rosters competing this season.
Syracuse lost three starters from last year's team. James Southerland went undrafted and will look to play professionally this year. Michael Carter-Williams, who torched IU's defense by scoring 24 in the Sweet 16, left school early and was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers. Brandon Triche graduated.
Indiana lost two players to the NBA draft, three more to graduation and two other players transferred in the offseason.
However, some things remain the same. Syracuse still plays a 2-3 zone defense, and Yogi Ferrell is still only 6'0". This time around, the Hoosiers don't get the luxury of playing on a neutral court. Instead, they have to travel to Syracuse for their 2013-14 Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup.
Just as Indiana reloaded with a top recruiting class, so did Syracuse. The Orange have the sixth-best 2013 recruiting class, according to ESPN, and it includes Ron Patterson, who had committed to IU with last year's class but did not meet the academic requirements to attend school in Bloomington, Ind.