Hoosiers have an eye on marquee opponents #iubb

The question drew a smirk from Thomas Bryant.

Is the Indiana center, along with his Hoosier teammates, viewing November’s rematch against North Carolina with a measure of revenge?

“Come on now. Come on. You should know that,” Bryant said. “Yeah. We’re all looking forward to it.”

That Nov. 30 showdown with the Tar Heels, who eliminated IU in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16 in March, stands as one of the highlights of a muscular pre-conference schedule. Bryant has made clear his desire to take another shot at North Carolina, and late this fall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge he’ll have that opportunity.

The Tar Heels are on a list of matchups bringing intrigue to the November and December slate of games. The Hoosiers are also scheduled to open the season against Kansas at Pearl Harbor, face Butler in the annual Crossroads Classic and meet Louisville in Indianapolis in the first game of a three-year series.

IU players have only just begun their summer workout sessions, but they’re already eyeing the marquee non-conference games to come.

“Being at Indiana, that’s what we want to do,” Bryant said. “Play the best competition out there. Playing against those guys will bring the best out of all of us.”

The remainder of Indiana’s non-conference schedule will emerge in the coming weeks, but the early highlights are clear.

In ESPN’s latest top 25 projections released in late May, Kansas is considered the No. 4 team this preseason, while North Carolina is No. 6 and Louisville is No. 13.

“I think we’ll find out where we are fairly early,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said. “I think our fans will enjoy the competition and who we’re playing and I’m excited about that. We want to run with the big dogs and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

The Hoosiers and Jayhawks were potential opponents last November in the Maui Invitational, with both programs stacked on opposite ends of the bracket. But IU’s tournament hiccups were enough to knock that matchup off course.

This November, the two blue blood programs are guaranteed to meet through ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic doubleheader from the Pearl Harbor Hickam Joint Base on Nov. 11.

“We want to play a little better in Pearl Harbor than we did in Maui,” Tom Crean said earlier this month at an alumni event in Southern Indiana. “But you know, without Maui, who knows how it would have turned out. We learned a lot in Maui. We didn’t learn a lot of good, but even what we learned came back to help us later down the road.”

Adding the Cardinals gives the Hoosiers a regional replacement for the Kentucky series, which came off the schedule in 2012. IU and Louisville will play in Bankers Life Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve this season before the series moves to early December during each of the next two seasons.

The schools will meet again at the KFC Yum! Center on Dec. 9, 2017, followed by a game at Assembly Hall on Dec. 8, 2018.

“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, but this was one that made sense for both places,” Crean said. “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’s sold out early at Bankers Life. It’s a great date.”

2 comments

  1. Kansas, UL, Butler, UNC all figure to be games with big national interest. However, I think the game against IPFW in Fort Wayne will be an eye-opener for the kids on this team. IPFW and their fans will treat it like a tournament game – several Indiana kids on the roster and a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. Added to that is the fact that Fort Wayne is a great IU town, so the coliseum up there will be packed and loud, probably about evenly divided. Hopefully not a competitive game, but sure to be a great atmosphere.

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