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Five games to watch for men's basketball this season


People pack into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 21.  Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

IU @ No. 23 Seton Hall, Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m., Prudential Center (Newark, New Jersey)

Returning Hoosiers will be familiar with playing a difficult game in the first week of the regular season, as IU beat then-No. 3 Kansas in Hawaii to begin last season. This season, Archie Miller’s first road game as IU Coach will be in the Hoosiers’ third game, against a senior-laden Seton Hall team. 

The Pirates return their four leading scorers from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row last season. Senior center Angel Delgado (15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game in 2016-17) has popped up on nearly every preseason All-American team, while senior wings Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez combined for 32.8 points per game as Seton Hall’s top two scorers last year. 

The mid-November matchup will be the first contest against a legitimate opponent, for both the Hoosiers and the Pirates. If Miller is able to lead IU to a road win against a Seton Hall team that’s gone 25-5 at home in the last two seasons and is ranked No. 23 in the preseason coaches poll, it’ll be a momentum-builder for the difficult December schedule that follows.

IU vs. No. 1 Duke, Nov. 29 at 9:30 p.m., Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana)

When IU’s regular season schedule was announced on Aug. 13, all eyes were drawn to this game. Undoubtedly one of the biggest games of the season, with national pedigree in store, the Hoosiers will be given a tall task to complete. 

Competing with the preseason No. 1 team in the country isn’t easy, especially after IU lost three of its five starters to the NBA Draft this offseason, but there will be no need for any extra motivation for the Hoosiers. Duke has one of the best rosters in the country, mixing the youth of freshmen point guard Trevon Duval and power forward Wendell Carter with the experience of senior guard Grayson Allen.

Not to mention the Blue Devils will also have the No. 1 2017 recruit in power forward Marvin Bagley III on hand as well, after transitioning from high school to the NCAA a year early. Allen’s scoring threat, including his three-point shot, and Bagley’s size, strength and scoring ability, plus Duval’s prolific play at point guard, will make it an interesting game to watch. 

Every single starter, from senior guard Josh Newkirk to sophomore forward De’Ron Davis, will have their hands full on Nov. 29.

IU vs. No. 14 Notre Dame, Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Indiana)

After a difficult stretch to start December, it won’t get any easier for IU. In Archie Miller’s first Crossroads Classic, the Hoosiers will face No. 14 Notre Dame, who brings back the dynamic duo of senior forward Bonzie Colson, the preseason ACC Player of the Year, and senior guard Matt Farrell. 

Colson has garnered significant preseason hype, appearing on many of the preseason All-American lists. Farrell broke out as one of the best point guards in the country last season as he averaged 14.1 points and 5.4 assists per game. 

The Irish also bring back junior guard Rex Pflueger, sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs, senior forward Martinas Geben. Last season, Notre Dame (26-10) finished third in the ACC and was the runner-up in the ACC Tournament. 

Under Mike Brey, the Irish have won 82 games the past three seasons. This matchup will be IU’s third game against an ACC foe and the Hoosiers last chance to earn a marquee nonconference victory before Big Ten conference play ramps up. 

IU vs. No. 19 Northwestern, Jan. 14, 2018, at 1:30 or 4:30 p.m., Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana)

The last time these two teams met, IU was celebrating senior night in Bloomington. The game featured a last-second win by IU and even featured a proposal by senior forward Collin Hartman. Hartman is back for the Hoosiers, but there won't be any antics this time around in the lone matchup of the season between the schools. 

The Wildcats have three players in their projected starting lineup that averaged double-digit points last season, one that ended with their first NCAA Tournament appearance. They will rely on senior point guard Bryant McIntosh who not only averaged 14.8 points a game last season, but also averaged 5.2 assists, too. 

Along with McIntosh, Northwestern will also turn to junior forward Vic Law’s scoring (12.3 points per game last season) and hard-nosed defense. Senior guard Robert Johnson will likely line up against Law, and senior guard Josh Newkirk matching up with McIntosh at point guard. 

Last season’s leading scorer against Northwestern was James Blackmon Jr., and obviously, the Hoosiers will need to fill that void this time around. Northwestern is supposed to challenge for the top spot in the Big Ten this season and have a lot of depth at their disposal, so a win against this side could be one of Archie Miller’s highlights and biggest wins of the season.

IU vs. No. 21 Purdue, Jan. 28 at 3:30 p.m., Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana)

Gone is All-American center Caleb Swanigan, but the Purdue team that reached the Sweet Sixteen last season returns all four other starters and has a tailor-made Swanigan replacement in senior center Isaac Haas (12.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in 2016-17). 

IU hasn’t matched up well against Purdue’s immense size in recent years, which has caused the Hoosiers to drop five of their last six games against the Boilermakers. This year, for the second time in three seasons, the rivals will only play in Bloomington, so IU is spared a road game at Mackey Arena. But Purdue is 2-1 in its last three games at IU, which should give seniors like Haas, forward Vince Edwards, guard Dakota Mathias and guard P.J. Thompson sky-high confidence heading into their last trip to Bloomington. 

Regardless of how IU is doing in Big Ten play when this game arrives around the midpoint of the conference schedule, Archie Miller can earn plenty of goodwill by beating Purdue in his first try. At Big Ten Media Day in mid-October, Miller said he’s already made an effort to understand and appreciate the history of the rivalry, so you can bet he’ll give this game the bit of extra attention it always calls for.

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