We are two days from the regular season basketball opener against Chicago State and it's time for my annual predictions column.
But part of this is getting you involved, too. How do you think Indiana basketball is going to fare this season?
I'm posting this column free on both the premium and the regular board to try and generate some conversation. More than that, it will give everyone a chance to be on the record, prior to the start of the season, with your prediction about how you think this team will do this year.
If you're a premium subscriber though, there's an actual contest involved. Be the first to pick IU's regular season record on the dot and you'll get a 6-month subscription add on for free.
I always do this for accountability purposes. If someone wants to take a shot at me in February and ask how I could have been so wrong about my preseason prediction on how the Hoosiers have done (either guessing too high or too low) I always come back to the few days leading up to the opener.
My question back to those fans is simple: I put my prediction out there on Nov. 6. Did you get yours in by 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 which was the first regular season game against Chicago State?
If your prediction is there then I'll be more than happy to give you all the credit you deserve. If you didn't make a pick though, I'll be less likely to give your opinion very much weight.
So those are the ground rules. Read the column, make your own prediction, put up a post either on the free board or the premium board and we'll see how everything turns out in March.
Now, having said of all that, it's tough for me to make game-by-game predictions having only seen this team a handful of times and really just at full strength once and that was Monday night against Hillsdale College.
But here goes.
Let's begin with the non-conference season. I'll take the Hoosiers to go 11-2 before Big Ten play begins. I think they'll win their first four against Chicago State, LIU Brooklyn, Samford and Stony Brook before heading to New York to play in the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden. There, I think there's probably a good chance they split those two games. How that split goes, I'm not sure. But I'm going to say they come out of MSG with a 1-1 split and a 5-1 season record to that point.
Coming back from New York, I think IU beats Evansville to go to 6-1. Next up will be Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen rematch in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge game in Syracuse, N.Y. With a young team, playing really in its first hostile environment and facing that wretched zone, I'm going to say IU loses that one on the road. That would put the Hoosiers at 6-2.
Indiana then would have five games before it opened Big Ten play. The four at Assembly Hall are all against opponents that Indiana should beat as it tunes up for conference action. Teams like North Florida, Oakland, Nicholls State and Kennesaw State are all teams that IU should find a way to beat. The other game is against Notre Dame at Bankers Life in the Crossroads Classic. This game could go either way but for now I'll take Indiana in that one.
So that would get the Hoosiers to 11-2 going into Big Ten play. I would think if you're an IU fan, with a team as young as this one, you would have to be happy with an 11-2 mark at this point in the season. You might also not really not exactly what to expect in Big Ten play though. With only the one true road game against Syracuse, it will hard to guess how IU will do when it plays in numerous hostile road environments in the Big Ten.
And when you really think about it 11-2 may be a bit of a lofty goal for this young IU team. That record could easily be 10-3 or even 9-4. I'm going to stick with the 11-2 prediction, though, at this point.
As for Big Ten play, that first four games in conference is going to tell us a lot about this Indiana team. The road games are Illinois and Penn State, but the home games are Michigan State and Wisconsin. I think IU would have to be pretty happy to come out of that stretch at 2-2. I think in my prediction, though, IU goes 1-3 in that first stretch.
For prediction purposes, I'm going to put IU's Big Ten record at 9-9. I'm a lot more comfortable with the 9-9 prediction than I am with who they'll beat and who they won't so I'll just go with the overall number at this point.
Obviously this could go a bunch of different ways. And without really having seen any of those Big Ten teams at this point I really am not ready to pick game by game just yet.
So that's my prediction going into the Big Ten Tournament: 20-11.
Considering everything Indiana lost from last year's team, I would think 20-11 would be pretty representative.
So that's my prediction. What's yours? Weigh in by 7 p.m. Nov. 8 and we'll have something to debate later this season.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch