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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball is projected to win the Big Ten. How hard could that be?

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The year is 2022. Indiana men’s basketball is ranked No. 13 in the preseason Associated Press poll. The Big Ten media poll has picked the Hoosiers to win the Big Ten and named senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis the preseason conference player of the year.  

If I didn’t know Indiana basketball fans to be some of the most rational, reasonable creatures on planet Earth, I’d be sort of worried about unrealistic expectations.  

[Related: COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball preview — yikes, that non-conference slate is brutal

Living up to all that hype will mean navigating a conference that produces nearly as much talent as it produces disappointing NCAA tournament performances. Here are four of Indiana’s most defining matchups of the season, starting with what I think we can all agree is one of the Hoosiers’ most hated rivals. 

At Rutgers on Dec. 3 

“Come on,” you say. “Rutgers? Really?” 

Oh, you mean the team that Indiana hasn’t beaten since March 2019? Yes, Rutgers. 

The Scarlet Knights lost two key pieces in guard Geo Baker and forward Ron Harper Jr. last offseason and are projected to finish in the middle of the Big Ten by most major outlets. Logic says the Hoosiers will win; history says otherwise. 

Indiana needs to win this game. Just think of all the Kelley School of Business students from New Jersey who forwent in-state tuition, only to watch their school’s basketball team lose to Rutgers year after year. Won’t someone take pity on those poor, underprivileged finance majors? 

At Iowa on Jan. 5  

Iowa is the projected No. 2 team behind Indiana in the Big Ten per the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings — basically the college basketball version of the Bible or the Constitution, minus all the wars and stuff. 

Junior forward and potential NBA prospect Kris Murray is one of seven Hawkeyes who each played at least 10 minutes in last year’s Big Ten championship game win. You may recall Iowa reached the title game thanks to a buzzer beater that ended the Hoosiers’ Big Ten tournament run.   

Heartbreak can be a powerful motivator for revenge — mostly crying but also revenge — so Indiana should have plenty of motivation. 

Purdue on Feb. 4 

Purdue’s phenomenal guard Jaden Ivey is in the NBA now, but the Boilermakers return plenty of talent including junior center Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4, 290-pound behemoth whose only clear weaknesses are getting into foul trouble and getting into midsize sedans. 

The Hoosiers have the depth of talent to match the Boilermakers, but winning both at home and on the road against a rival as skilled as Purdue is a huge ask. Last season, Indiana needed a 3-point shot from then-senior guard Rob Phinisee with 17 seconds left to snap its nine-game losing streak against Purdue. 

It’s a moment that will be shown on the jumbotron at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall before every men’s basketball game for years to come. That said, it would be cool if Indiana actually beat Purdue again instead of just reliving one moment over and over — not that Indiana basketball would ever get stuck in the past.  

No. 22 Michigan on March 5 

Michigan junior center Hunter Dickinson joins Purdue’s Edey and Indiana’s Jackson-Davis as the only unanimous preseason All-Big Ten selections. He is flanked by a bevy of talented youth and led by 2021 Big Ten coach of the year Juwan Howard.  

The Hoosiers and Wolverines should be even in terms of talent. While Indiana has the edge in terms of experience, Michigan will have had a whole season to hone its team chemistry. I know losing late-season games by 20 or so points was kind of Indiana’s thing for a few seasons, but it’s hard to imagine this game being anything but a nail-biter. 

If Indiana loses, no undergraduate student from the class of 2023 with a four-year degree will have seen the Hoosiers win on senior night. I suppose it’s not too late to pick up that Master of Science in Information Systems, but an Indiana win would definitely save me a little cash. 

Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 
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