Did you ever have to read “Great Expectations” in school?
You know, that book with the dude named pip and then nothing goes right for him and very little of it makes sense to a class of modern teenagers? If so, I’m sorry. If not, lucky you!
Anyway, in light of the offseason, Indiana men’s basketball now has something it hasn’t had in years: expectations.
Sure, you can argue that Indiana should be expected to make the tournament (you’d be right) or that the arrival of Romeo Langford felt like the dawn of a new era (kinda, but look how that went down). But this is entirely different from all of the above.
You see, all of those were unique to Indiana. They were in-house expectations that largely ignore the Big Ten as a whole, but now the conference field is key to expectations for the Hoosiers this upcoming season.
On paper (I cannot stress that enough), the league appears decently weaker than it was last year. Illinois faces life without Kofi Cockburn, Michigan lost some key starters, Ohio State lost some stars and the same can be said for just about every team in the conference.
The Hoosiers retain key starters in Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson along with leading scorer and the team’s star of the past three years in Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Keeping starters is good, but Indiana went further by keeping key bench contributors in Trey Galloway and Jordan Geronimo. Both were good enough to find starting minutes at another viable program, but elected to remain in Bloomington.
Indiana lost Khristian Lander, Parker Stewart and Michael Durr to the portal, but the incoming top-ten high school class looks more than up to the challenge of filling in those gaps.
So far, head coach Mike Woodson looks to have had the best offseason in the conference by far. The only thing lacking would be transfer additions, but Indiana had neither the room or perhaps even the need.
While the conference weakened (on paper!) around them, Indiana just seemed to get better. So, of course, the expectations started flowing in.
Between some quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Instagram promotion (okay?), CBS Sports men’s college basketball insider Jon Rothstein tweeted out some Big Ten stats. Namely, which teams were returning the most production.
Who else would be at the top but Indiana, returning 90.9% of its scoring?
Big Ten Returning Scoring By Percentage:— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) June 11, 2022
Penn State: 55.7%
Michigan State: 52.1%
Ohio State: 13.9%
He promptly quote tweeted it with the message “The Big Ten runs through Bloomington.”
We had some fun with that on Twitter! He made other fanbases made and got Hoosier fans excited. But now it’s time to be serious about it for a minute.
First off, you’re probably gonna hear a ton of people saying “oh, indiana fans fancied themselves a natty contender after one year of mike woodson!” after the Hoosiers lose a game or something.
Not that I need to tell you this, but ignore that. Outside of maybe a few accounts on the ol’ bird app, nobody is saying that. Indiana has been through quite a bit since the Hoosiers’ last real run in the tournament, so most fans have enough critical thinking to know that building a team takes time.
Plus anyone saying that is farming engagement from you and you would do well to ignore that because otherwise you’re just giving them what they want.
Second, the team is far from perfect, and fans understand that. If you think about that 90.9% scoring total, most of that 9.1% that left was Parker Stewart shooting 3s here and there. He was Indiana’s most reliable shooter, and now he’s gone.
I simply do not need to tell you that shots from outside the perimeter have been less than great for Indiana since Tom Crean was fired. Archie Miller stated both during and after his time in Bloomington that the lack of shooting was the Hoosiers’ greatest weakness under him.
Since we’re still just a year removed from Miller’s tenure, those problems are still on the roster. Indiana didn’t bring in some vaunted shooter through the portal or through high school, so the only way to fix that issue in the short term is developing what they have.
There’s honestly more there than you’d think.
Just about everyone thought Miller Kopp would be a bit of an answer last year, but his season was up and down. But don’t forget the key shots he made in the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana wasn’t advancing without those. We’re just gonna have to wait and see what another year in Woodson’s system with more threats around him will do.
Xavier Johnson was able to knock down some key shots as well down the stretch when he wasn’t running the offense.
Then there’s Tamar Bates, who hit 3-pointers at a rate of 40% against tough competition as a senior at IMG Academy. He only managed a 29.8% rate as a freshman in limited minutes, but now he has an entire offseason with the coaching staff to work on his shot.
As for the freshmen, the only true shooter coming in is C.J. Gunn, who hit 3s at a rate of 37.4% as a senior at Lawrence North High School.
That’s what Indiana likely has, but I’d expect Woodson to try to develop some more consistent shooting ability in guys like Galloway, Leal, Hood-Schifino or even Geronimo. There’s more potential to Indiana’s shooting than I think it’ll be given credit for, but it needs to be unlocked.
If Indiana solves that issue, then the hype can be (kind of) warranted.
But this is just a reminder to keep expectations at bay. Nobody expected Wisconsin to perform the way it did. What was touted as perhaps the “Greatest Purdue team of all-time” ended the season without any form of title and a loss to St. Peters (lol). Illinois usually trips over itself in the postseason.
Michigan has usually either satisfied or exceeded expectations.
Whatever happens, just remember that the words of dudes farming engagement on Twitter ultimately mean nothing once the ball is tipped. This is college basketball, anything can happen.