Division II power Bellarmine will provide the final tune-up for No. 15 IU when the Hoosiers play host to the Knights for a 7 p.m. exhibition matchup on Monday.
A balanced scoring attack, a dominant performance in the post and stingy second-half defense secured an 82-54 victory for the Hoosiers in their first exhibition matchup against Ottawa.
While Bellarmine has fallen in its past two exhibitions -- 71-55 at Louisville and 81-60 at Cincinnati -- IU Coach Tom Crean believes the Knights will provide a "tremendous challenge" for his nationally-ranked team.
Bellarmine finished 31-4 last season and Division II national preseason polls place the Knights as high as No. 3 in the country.
"These are the kind of games our team needs right now," Crean said of IU's exhibition schedule. "They're going to make it very hard on us and give us great preparation for what we will have to face in November and beyond. These kind of games are going to help us get better."
IU's season opener is Friday against Eastern Illinois. The Hoosiers will only play two regular season games before a home matchup against Creighton, followed by their appearance in the Maui Invitational and an early December road game at Duke.
The Hoosiers scheduled their exhibitions after researching the potential positional matchups and styles of play of their early season opponents. IU ultimately decided upon Ottawa and Bellarmine.
"It is not always a scientific approach," Crean said, "but we do approach it based on what we are going to see."
The Knights will test the Hoosiers with their physicality, screening and half-court sets, Crean said.
IU assistant coach Chuck Martin, who handled the scouting duties for the Bellarmine matchup, said the Knights are similar to Ottawa — the No. 1 team in Canada — but they're bigger. Against Louisville, Bellarmine started three players who are 6-foot-9 or taller.
"Their point guard was 5-8 but the other guys really resembled a quality Division I program," Martin said.
On Tuesday the Hoosiers unveiled a starting lineup featuring freshman center Thomas Bryant and graduate transfer Max Bielfeldt in the frontcourt but IU didn't face anyone taller than 6-foot-8 against Ottawa. That won't be the caseon Monday, which should act as a better litmus test for the four newcomers in the Hoosiers' revamped frontcourt.
Bellarmine's roster contains both size and skilled passers. The Knights were sixth in the country in assists last season.
"These guys move the ball with the pass," Martin said. "I think they're one of the best passing teams I've seen in a long, long time regardless of Division I, Division II, so they can move the ball, attack you differently."
Iowa and St. John's each suffered an exhibition loss to a Division II opponent in the opening week of November but Martin said IU doesn't need to be reminded of the challenge Bellarmine poses.
"We know there are quality players throughout the country regardless if it's Division I or II," he said. "That's a program that went to the Final Four last year. They won 30-plus games. We're aware of how good they are and how well coached they are."
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.
More in Sports
The winner will be announced Jan. 18, 2020.
Tsirtsis is a three-time All-American.
The Olympic gold medalist finally cashes in.