Do you have anyone in your life who trades on past glory? Maybe it’s some former HS quarterback who weighs 75 pounds more than he used to and couldn’t run ten yards but continues to insist he has it. It could be a football coach who still runs Oklahoma drills and calls a TBI “getting your bell rung” but won’t let everyone forget that state title back in ‘96. Shoot, maybe your’re holding on to that 30 inch waist pair of jeans from a decade ago because any day now you’ll fit back in them. Those analogies are all Indiana basketball.
The Hoosiers last made a Sweet 16 in 2016. That is significant because it was the last time prior to last year that IU made the tournament. The Hoosiers haven’t won a Sweet 16 game since 2002. In that time span Xavier has twice made the Elite 8 and been to the Sweet 16 seven times. The numbers for the Hoosiers are zero and three. Still, fans pack Assembly Hall and talk about Indiana as if they are a national power. They aren’t, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good this year.
In Mike Woodson’s first year on the job last season he did what Archie Miller never could and got the Hoosiers to the tournament. He also got them in the top 50 on the KenPom, marking the highest they had finished in a season (that finished) since 2017. The team is clearly on the rise and there is some (very) latent power in the name Indiana. It’s up to Woodson to harness that.
No one left via graduation. Of Woodson’s entire roster last season, not a single one was a senior moving on. Four players did leave, though. Parker Stewart, Khristian Lander, Rob Phinisee (to UC), and Michael Durr all left through the transfer portal. Stewart is the main loss as he started in 31 games, shot 39% behind the arc, and was a dab hand on the ball from the shooting guard spot. Durr played 30 times but only averaged seven minutes per game, Phinisee played almost 20 minutes per game but posted an offensive rating of 83.5. Lander was essentially a non-entity. None of the departures are going to make Woodson lose a lot of sleep.
Trayce Jackson-Davis. TJD was rumored to be entering the draft but stayed at Indiana for his senior season. Last year he posted a line of 18.3/8.1/1.9 and was nearly unstoppable in the paint at times. His Indiana bio starts like this: “Second Team All-Big Ten (Coaches, Media, AP) Big Ten All-Defensive Team NABC All-District USBWA All-District All-Big Ten Tournament Team Captain Dick Vitale National Player of the Week (11/29) B1G Player of the Week (11/15) Second player in IU history with 1,500 points, 750 rebounds and 150 blocks (Alan Henderson) 15th on IU all-time scoring list with 1,588 points, Ninth in rebounds (797) Seventh in blocked shots (178) Seventh in FG percentage (55.8% Sixth in Big Ten in Scoring (18.3), sixth in rebounds (8.1), fourth in FG percentage (58.9%), second in Big Ten in blocks (81).”
That massive block of text means he’s really good.
Four of Indiana’s top five scorers are coming back. The aforementioned Parker Stewart is the only one not. Xavier Johnson was second on the team in scoring and 34th in the nation in assist rate. He’s also an excellent shooter behind the arc. Race Thompson is a possession ender on the defensive glass and was third on the team in scoring. Miller Kopp was fifth on the team in scoring, largely on the back of his 36% shooting behind the arc. Tamar Bates and Jordan Geronimo are the final two players returning who averaged more than double digit minutes per game. This is a deep team returning.
That depth is bolstered by a good recruiting class. Well, a great one, actually. Rivals had the incoming class at 13th, ESPN at 8th, and 9th at 24/7.
CJ Gunn is probably the least heralded recruit in the class of four. He’s a three star 6-5 guard who is just barely outside the top 100 nationally. Some of his value comes at the defensive end, but he can score from all three levels as well. Kaleb Banks is a four star top 100 forward who stands 6-7 and weighs 200 pounds. He’s a big wing who can run and shoot. He’s really, really good.
He’s not the top recruit for Indiana, though, that’s Malik Reneau. Reneau is a left handed big with good touch around the rim. He’s not explosive, but he’s a strong and gifted big. ESPN had him as the sixth best big man in their recruiting rankings. Jalen Hood-Schifino comes from Monteverde Academy and is a 6-6 guard who can both shoot and run the point. He’ll slot in next to Xavier Johnson in Mike Woodson’s plans.
Very good. Bart Torvik has the Hoosiers 11th, which would make them the toughest team Xavier is (guaranteed) to play. Indiana has been a faded power for a long time. Mike Woodson has them back in a place to actually matter.