For the first time since 2019, Indiana has a Quadrant 1 tournament win in November and moves to 3-0 on the season. And this time, it came on the road. Already, things are looking up for the 2022-2023 Indiana season.
It wasn’t perfect, and most of the bigger picture questions surrounding this team remain unanswered after the first real test of the season. But it’s clear that this team has enough talent to overpower opponents even in the early stages of the season, before Mike Woodson works out his rotations and subbing patterns.
For context, the last time Indiana beat a team ranked in Kenpom’s top 50 on the road was 2016, when Indiana won the Big Ten regular season title and beat Kentucky in the round of 32.
Here’s Three Things:
It’s not exactly news to anybody who has watched Indiana over the last four seasons, but TJD is one of the most talented players in college basketball once again this season. Indiana will continue to win games because other teams simply do not have somebody good enough to guard him.
Trayce posted his fourth 30-point college basketball game and tonight was arguably the most effortless of all of his prior performances. He hit 13 of his 16 shots, went four of six at the foul line, grabbed six boards, and recorded three blocks to just one personal foul tonight.
His critics may argue that he’s not adding the extended range that most believed he would need to become a top prospect, but it’s clear that he’s refined his game and shown a more varied skillset so far this year than in years past.
Woodson understands that in matchups like tonight, Trayce can really set himself apart facing the basket, making Jack Nunge and Zach Freeman extend their defensive ranges and leaving some combination of Race Thompson and/or Malik Reneau open for an easy layup.
Indiana probably shouldn’t count on this on a night-to-night basis considering how familiar the Big Ten will be with his skillset. At the same time, Indiana fans should be grateful for the opportunity to watch somebody so dominant in a Hoosier uniform.
Being the toughest competition of the season to date, tonight was probably the best insight into where Mike Woodson sees everybody fitting into this team’s success at this point in the season. So what did we notice?
First of all, anyone that feared Woodson would go with a full-blown second unit of zero starters need not worry at this point in the season. He brought Tamar Bates in for Miller Kopp and Malik Reneau in for Race Thompson while leaving the rest of the starting lineup intact for a few possessions before Trey Galloway came in for Jalen Hood-Schifino. Jackson-Davis played five or so minutes with the reserves before he first came out for a breather.
Perhaps most telling was how quick Woodson went back to Hood-Schifino, who came back in just a few minutes later for Xavier Johnson alongside Galloway, Reneau, Jackson-Davis, and Bates.
Tonight was definitely not Hood-Schifino’s finest college performance to date, but Mike Woodson clearly has a lot of confidence in him and appears to be willing to let him play through his struggles as the season goes on. As the game got close in the final minutes, Jalen was out there in spite of his career-low three points and overall quiet offensive performance.
Malik Reneau was also out there at the end of the game, which is a testament to how he continues to impress in every opportunity he’s been given so far in his college career. In 16 minutes tonight, he recorded 12 points, 6 rebounds and an assist, cementing his spot as one of the most talented players on a stacked Indiana roster.
The Three Spot
Miller Kopp’s late three-pointer, while significant, is likely not enough to answer any questions about how to handle the minutes on the wing for Indiana this year. He went 2-8 from the field tonight and turned in his worst shooting performance of the year, including some missed layups that seemed like gimmes for either Jordan Geronimo or Malik Reneau.
Reneau is going to play his way into more playing time this year, but is not best utilized on the wing for Indiana. He doesn’t seem capable of stretching the floor in the way that you’d want at that position, and already looks like he has some chemistry inside with TJD.
That leaves Jordan Geronimo, Tamar Bates, and Trey Galloway as the leading contenders for those minutes. None of those three looked particularly impressive tonight, combining for one point in 39 minutes played on a free throw from Geronimo.
Personally, I am not going to panic now, since I think Indiana having those three on the bench and Kopp on the roster automatically gives them more options going forward than they’ve had in years past. If Xavier Johnson or JHS find their shot from deep, Woodson won’t have to rely so heavily on those minutes for perimeter scoring and can ride the hot hand or matchup as he sees fit.
The one thing I would like to see would be a higher volume of threes in general, just to get a clearer picture of what Indiana needs from the three spot. Ideally, they will not continue to come from Race Thompson, who went 0-4 from deep and regressed to the mean of what you would expect from a senior post player.
At the end of the day, I see no reason to nitpick a team that’s 3-0 with a solid tournament win in mid-November, and hope everyone is enjoying the ride that is the 2022-23 Indiana Men’s Basketball season.