Indiana Basketball: Most Important Games for Hoosiers in 2013-14 Season

Kyle GrandFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2013

Indiana Basketball: Most Important Games for Hoosiers in 2013-14 Season

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    Indiana basketball fans everywhere can rejoice. The Hoosiers' 2013-14 schedule has been released!

    Now, IU has a better idea of what lies ahead for its rejuvenated roster.

    The Hoosiers' season starts off with a set of relatively easy non-conference games. They will face more than their fair share of cupcakes before the Big Ten season begins, including teams such as Stony Brook, North Florida and Oakland.

    Much like a year ago, the Big Ten will be no joke. The conference is loaded with talented teams, and every game will be a test.

    Indiana will play in plenty of "big" games in 2013-14, but which will mean the most? Let's take a look at what IU's most important games will be this season.  

December 3, 2013: At Syracuse

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    Last year, Syracuse ended Indiana's season in embarrassing fashion. The two faced off in the Sweet 16, and IU was dominated from start to finish. 

    The Hoosiers get a shot at redemption, thanks to the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Indiana will head to New York to try and get payback. 

    This game is significant for one reason---Syracuse's zone defense.

    The vaunted 2-3 zone of the 'Cuse terrorized IU a season ago.The Hoosiers looked completely lost and had no answer. It sent a message to the rest of the country that Indiana had a giant hole in its armor.

    Now, Indiana has a chance to rewrite the script. The Hoosiers can prove to themselves and everyone else that they can deal with a zone defense. 

    Knocking off Syracuse would go a long way in rebuilding Indiana's psyche. If IU makes it to a third straight NCAA tournament, there is definitely a chance they could get matched up with a team that prefers to play a zone. 

    A win against Syracuse will give Indiana the confidence it needs, in case they run up against a similar team later in the season. 

January 14, 2014: Wisconsin

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    In the middle of January, a recent thorn in Indiana's side pays a visit to Assembly Hall. To put it lightly, the Wisconsin Badgers have dominated the Hoosiers recently. 

    Wisconsin has won the last 12 times it has faced the Hoosiers. Tom Crean can't find an answer to the Badgers' Bo Ryan.

    Indiana goes up against Wisconsin twice this year, and this game is important because the Hoosiers get a shot at Wisconsin with home-court advantage. It represents Indiana's best chance to end the losing streak. 

    Indiana needs to get the Wisconsin monkey off its back, and you can bet Tom Crean has this contest circled on his team's schedule. 

     

February 15, 2014: At Purdue

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    Indiana only plays its archrival once—and it's a road game. A young, refreshed Hoosiers roster faces an older, more experienced Purdue that has potentially the best big man in the Big Ten.

    When the Hoosiers come out of the locker room, expect a more boisterous Purdue crowd than usual. Indiana embarrassed the Boilermakers twice in 2012-13, including a shellacking in Mackey Arena

    Those contests will be on everyone's mind when these two teams suit up, and Purdue will want to send a message to its rival. 

    This matchup is important for Indiana because of the opportunity to remain the dominant team in the rivalry. IU has won four straight against Purdue, and this is its chance to maintain state bragging rights. 

    A road win against a much-improved Purdue team would be huge.

    Winning on the road in the Big Ten is tough. If IU can pull this game out, it will strengthen their chances for a Big Ten title and look very good on a NCAA tournament resume.  

March 8, 2014: At Michigan

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    For the second year in a row, Indiana finishes the regular season at Michigan. Much like last season, this game could go a long way in determining the outcome of IU's season. 

    Depending on how IU's season is going, this contest might be a must win.

    Possible scenarios: Indiana is in contention for another Big Ten title and needs a victory to clinch, or the year hasn't gone as well as planned, and the Hoosiers are on the NCAA tournament bubble. 

    Most likely, the Wolverines will be a ranked team throughout the season. A win against them would look very good to the tournament selection committee. 

    This game could very well be the difference between a Big Ten title and no hardware, or the NCAA tournament and the NIT.