I had already talked about the non-conference portion of the schedule in a previous post, but Purdue was kind enough to finally release the conference portion of the 2009-10 men's basketball schedule. There were no surprises in terms of opponents, as we already knew that we had a home and home except Northwestern and Michigan. In a way, that is a bit of a blessing. We won at Northwestern last year (playing an awful game in the process), while losing at Michigan. The reverse was true at home, but this year we go to Evanston while our only game against Michigan is in Mackey Arena. Here are some other key points:
11 Times on ESPN or ESPN2 - And this is before CBS or ESPN picks up any of the late season games that will decide the Big Ten title. Fans won't get a chance to see any of the Paradise Jam games on TV, but the December 12th trip to Alabama will be on ESPN2. After that, every Big Ten game will at least be on Big Ten Network.
No excuse for a slow start - Last year, we began conference play with tough games against Illinois and Penn State. We lost both, digging an 0-2 hole before anything else. This year we open conference play at Iowa, which is likely going to be the weakest team in the conference. They will still be tough at home because we never play well in Iowa City, but if we are truly a Final Four caliber team we will handle this game easily.
Everything else is brutal - After Iowa, everything else will be a war. That is to be expected when six conference opponents went to the NCAA's last year and all likely got better this year. Two more went to the NIT (with Penn State winning the thing), and Northwestern may have gotten better. Indiana can't be worse than last year, and it is a rivalry with them after all. Only the second Iowa game on February 13th provides a break. There are no gimmes this year, but at least that is the case for everyone.
Three straight home games - Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State all come to Mackey Arena in a row during late January. This is probably the easiest stretch of schedule solely from the standpoint of getting the games at home. These games are sandwiched in between trips to Champaign and Bloomington.
Indiana - It is a welcome sight to see the Hoosiers back on the schedule twice. Indiana should be better, but they will be playing a number of freshmen who must learn by fire in one of the toughest Big Ten seasons I have ever seen. I can't remember the last time we won in Bloomington, but it needs to be February 4th on ESPN2. The Hoosiers come to West Lafayette on Senior Day this year, which is fine with me as long as we don't play like we did on Senior Day this year.
Final Thoughts - Honestly, if there is any team in the country that can get through this schedule with less than four losses they deserve to be a number 1 seed. Our tough non-conference schedule will prepare us for this, but it is still a grueling task. There are literally no weaknesses in this year's Big Ten. Some tough games I see for us are of course a trip to East Lansing on February 9th. Winning at Ohio State on February 17th would be big since we have lost our last two games there in overtime. January 9th at Wisconsin will be tough, as no one has ever beaten Wisconsin three times at the Kohl Center, let alone in a row. Finally, January 19th at Illinois will be a tough game as well.
Robbie and E'Twaun named Wooden Award candidates - Since there are only 50 pre-season candidates for this award, this shows how good we should be when two players are named to the National Player of the Year Ward watch list. We could have had a third in JaJuan Johnson, but this is yet another reason that JaJuan needs to be patient. Stay in school, get your degree, dominate in 2010-11 with Travis Carroll as your backup, leave a legacy...
Is my hypnosis working?
Prepare for the season another way - Buy a Defense Lives Here T-shirt! Use the code CP1NATB7H to get $3 off. I finally ordered my own and they look great!