For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on RushTheCourt.net, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
General Theme: For the second straight season, IUPUI Head Coach Ron Hunter has turned to neutral-site tournaments to help fill out his men's basketball schedule. Last year, the Jaguars played in the Glenn Wilkes Classic, which added four games to their schedule. This year, they'll participate in the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic, which for the most part takes place one state to the east in Oxford, Ohio. From this alone, they get a game at Gonzaga and three games against respected mid-major programs in UW-Green Bay, Miami (Ohio), and San Diego State. The IUPUI squad also gets two games out of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, though the teams have not been announced yet. Credit Hunter for hunting down these tournaments as they provide a hungry mid-major program like IUPUI the opportunity to complete the non-conference schedule a bit more easily. While they do sacrifice some independence in the process, they'll at least get to reap the benefits of coming together with others for a common cause.
Travel At A Glance: Much of the travel in the non-conference schedule has a Midwest-focus, which is solid for Hunter and the rest of the Jaguars. Two west coast trips (once to Spokane, Washington and then to Las Vegas for the tournament) will inflate the line-item for travel, but the games played there should be great for the team's RPI, strength of schedule, and other indicators. Still, the Jaguars will be doing a lot of traveling as they return many games to teams which visited The Jungle in 2009-10.
Easiest Game: IUPUI plays against a lot of decent-to-strong mid-majors, thus none of these games particularly stand out for easiest game consideration. For that reason, we'll stick with the non-DI games which should give the Jaguars some time to test out many of their new faces. The team had a very short bench last season, and with the departure of strong players like Robert Glenn and Billy Pettiford, many new guys will need to step up. These games will provide them with that chance.
Toughest Game: The only top-tier Big Ten team the Oakland Golden Grizzlies won't face this year is Ohio State. The Buckeyes return nearly every key piece from last year sans Evan Turner but get a boost in the paint with the arrival of highly-touted freshman Jared Sullinger (people are predicting Greg Oden-like status for this young dude). IUPUI will get the task of figuring out how to stop Sullinger and the rest of the guys from tOSU. Sadly, Mark Titus won't be there to reciprocate any one-armed embraces.
Most Likely Upset: The Jags' best shot of a marginal upset will come against San Diego State. Head Coach Steve Fisher has built a strong program there in San Diego, enough so that this could be considered an upset for IUPUI.
Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: The team from Indy will play three straight road games in December at Ohio State (12/9), at Ohio (12/12), and at Duquesne (12/18). Each game presents its own hurdles, with the OSU game obviously standing out as the toughest. Coming away from this stretch with one win should be expected but two will be challenging.
Most Challenging Conference Stretch: The Summit League portion of the schedule for IUPUI is rather balanced. Consequently, there are no three-to-four game stretches which really jump out as incredibly tough. Good news for the Jags.
Best Individual Match-Up: Mark your calendars for when the Jaguars take on the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts to see IUPUI's Alex Young battle against ORU's Domonique Morrison. The two juniors are coming off of great sophomore campaigns in which both earned First Team honors in The Summit League. ORU has a more balanced scoring attack than IUPUI, so while Young may be the more prolific scorer of the two, Morrison can still put up big numbers with the best of them. If it weren't for that guy up in Rochester named Kito, these two would garner first consideration for conference player of the year in 2010-11.
Most Anticipated Home Game: IUPUI doesn't have too many watchable home games in the fall semester, that is until Oral Roberts comes to town for an early-season Summit League game. The two teams will meet at The Jungle on Saturday, December 4. The Jaguars will be looking to prove they haven't taken a step back after last year's dominating season, while the Golden Eagles will attempt to establish themselves as the number one team in the conference pecking order with an early win on the road. Due to the previously-mentioned lack of early home games, one can be sure that the Red Zone will be rockin' and ready to help cheer the Jags to victory.
Concluding Thoughts: It seems as though every coach has his own philosophy when it comes to putting together a schedule. Ron Hunter has relied on multi-team tournaments to fill out his schedules recently, which is great for getting guaranteed games but unfortunate for fans looking to attend home games. Despite this fact, he'll have his IUPUI team playing a lot of quality opponents in preparation for conference play. And that's the most you can ask for from a schedule at this level.