Column: The 5 best games on IU's schedule
This year, the IU men’s basketball schedule is jam-packed with marquee matchups, rivalries and nationally televised games.
When trying to narrow down my list to the five best games on the Hoosiers’ schedule, I wanted to take specifics into consideration to determine which games will be the most memorable and important in the 2012-13 season.
It wasn’t easy, but after weighing criteria like national relevance, conference and postseason implications and individual storylines, I have come up with these five can’t-miss games.
Opponent Either UCLA or Georgetown
Location Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
I know IU Coach Tom Crean won’t look past Georgia in the semifinals of the Legends Classic on Nov. 19, but we can circle the finals on our calendars.
UCLA (11), Georgetown (1) and IU (5) have accounted for 17 of the 74 national championships played since 1939.
It’s rare to have a collection of college basketball royalty all under one roof before Thanksgiving, so the Legends Classic will be a great way to help break in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which opens Sept. 28.
Opponent North Carolina
Selfishly, I have to say I am a little upset this game wasn’t played last year.
Watching Tyler and Cody Zeller battle it out in Assembly Hall would have been more epic than the final scene in Gladiator when Maximus (Russell Crowe) and Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) fight to the death in the Coliseum to see who will rule Rome.
Even if this year’s matchup doesn’t feature brothers battling it out in the grandest basketball venue of their home state, it is still a showcase of two of the nation’s best programs in one of the best annual sporting events, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
UNC’s forward James Michael McAdoo and guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald will lead the Tar Heels into a buzzing Bloomington fresh off Thanksgiving break.
In my best Maximus voice: Are you not entertained?
Location Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
On the first Saturday of winter break, IU has a chance to flex its muscles against an in-state opponent.
Last season, Butler Coach Brad Stevens and the Bulldogs gave the Hoosiers a run for their money in a slow-paced, grind-it-out type of game. They were eventually put away 75-59 behind then-sophomore forward Will Sheehey’s 21 points.
Down the road, games like these help both schools on the recruiting trail. For IU, this game is about illustrating Crean’s recent dominance of recruiting in Indiana.
On paper, IU looks like it should have a huge advantage against Butler, even with an improved Butler team, but don’t think for a second Stevens won’t have his guys pumped to upset the Hoosiers.
The Wolverines and ESPN’s College Gameday come to Bloomington.
I attended College Gameday at Illinois three years ago. Speaking from personal experience, believe me when I say it’ll be the most intense weekend of the pre-March basketball season.
I envision fans camped outside Assembly Hall all night and into the morning in the brutal February cold just to be part of the morning’s telecast.
After having the afternoon to recover from Gameday, fans will return to Assembly Hall to watch two potential top-five teams.
IU versus Michigan is always a contentious meeting no matter the sport, but when you add the national spotlight, Dick Vitale and ESPN to the mix, this matchup could be one of the top games on the NCAA calendar.
Opponent Ohio State
Senior Night against the Buckeyes could go down in the lore of Hoosier history.
It will be the last home game for three of the truest Hoosiers that have ever donned the Cream and Crimson, guard Jordan Hulls and forwards Christian Watford and Derek Elston.
On a night honoring the seniors’ hard work, dedication and loyalty, it’s fitting that it might also be the night this year’s team wins the Big Ten regular season championship.
After Senior Night, only one game remains on IU’s regular season schedule, a trip to Michigan on March 10.
Obviously, much will need to happen before the Hoosiers can potentially claim their first regular season championship since 2002, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on Senior Night against the Buckeyes.
That would be the way to honor the seniors.
Feb. 7 at Illinois
Feb. 19 at Michigan State
Jan. 15 v. Wisconsin
Jan. 30 at Purdue
Feb. 16 v. Purdue
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