BLOOMINGTON-Due in no small part to a much kinder and gentler 2005-06 schedule, IU Coach Mike Davis' Hoosiers are on schedule to be much improved this winter.
Indiana released its 2005-06 schedule on Wednesday, which still includes a handful of heavyweights during the non-conference portion of the slate. Indiana will host Duke Nov. 30 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and will also square off with rival Kentucky Dec. 10 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. After a nine-day break after the UK contest, the Hoosiers will travel to Charlotte to play a third NCAA tourney team from a year ago.
A final non-league encounter with a national power will come against UConn, which travels to Bloomington for a Feb. 4 game that will be televised by CBS.
But this year's schedule doesn't feature anything resembling the six-game stretch IU faced early on a year ago, when consecutive losses to UConn, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Missouri and Charlotte dropped the Hoosiers to 2-6 and out of the national spotlight for good for the remainder of the season.
This season, the matchups against those four NCAA tourney teams from a year ago are balanced by games against seven other non-conferences foes that went a combined 82-119. The only other non-conference opponent that had a .500 record or better a year ago was Ball State, which went 15-13. For the second time in three years, Indiana will travel to Muncie to face the Cardinals on New Year's Eve.
In a prepared statement, Davis said he liked the mix on this year's schedule, which gets underway Nov. 18 against a Nicholls State team that went 6-21 a year ago.
"We have a great schedule and it will certainly test us early and often throughout the season," Davis said. "The thing that I like about this schedule is that it will provide an objective gauge of our team's progress. Games with Duke, Kentucky and Connecticut will showcase our program nationally, while we have also had some great games in the past few years with Indiana State, Butler and Ball State. Our fans deserve the chance to see some of the nation's elite teams, along with quality in-state programs."
While the Hoosiers have a chance to get off to a quick start during non-conference play, they can do the same during league play as well. Indiana plays four of its first five Big Ten games at home. The teams the Hoosiers only play once include Ohio State (home), Minnesota (road), Wisconsin (road) and Northwestern (home).
A much more friendly schedule, combined with an IU roster that should be as talented as any in the Big Ten, has Davis expecting bigger things from his team this winter. After guiding the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first three seasons as head coach, Indiana has missed out on the tourney in each of the past two seasons.
Despite the loss of Big Ten scoring champion Bracey Wright from last year's team, the Hoosiers return four starters, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year D.J. White. Davis will be able to blend in a trio of talented transfers (Marco Killingsworth, Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway) and a solid freshman class to a team that bounced back from its 5-6 non-conference start to go 10-6 in conference play a season ago.
""I have always said that the expectations for a team should match its personnel," said Davis. "We have a deep and talented roster that is ready for the challenges ahead."
2005-06 IU Basketball Schedule
IU Releases 2005-06 Basketball Schedule
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