Indiana men’s basketball has had an interesting start to its 2023-24 season, to put it mildly.
Two games against Florida Gulf Coast and Army have left the Hoosiers facing more questions than answers. Both were too close for comfort, especially the latter. With Wright State and UConn on the Horizon, they need to get themselves together quickly. We still haven’t seen this group in a road or neutral court situation, just at the Hall.
That being said there are at least a few things worth feeling okay about after two games. With coverage trending toward the negative, we wanted to look at what’s going right in Bloomington.
The emergence of Kel’el Ware
Former Oregon Duck Kel’el Ware has largely looked the part Indiana has hoped he’d play this season through two games, averaging 16.5 points, nine rebounds and 2.5 assists across both contests.
He recorded a double-double against FGCU with 13 points and 12 boards and then scored a career high 20 against Army on Sunday.
On top of his offensive output, Ware has recorded four blocks through two games. He’s been lurking down low as Trayce Jackson-Davis did before him, only he has even more length to get to the ball.
One simple criticism would be improving his timing, as he’s had a few goaltends, but that could come with time in Woodson’s system as the rim protector.
He hasn’t truly forced much on offense, instead letting the game come to him. He’s caught lobs in the halfcourt and on the break for rim-shaking dunks. He has enough of a bag to hit a turnaround fadeaway away from the basket that’s difficult to guard.
The motor concerns from Oregon look as though they’ve been left in the past.
Xavier Johnson looks more like himself
Johnson, coming off of foot surgery from an injury sustained against Kansas last season, looks healthy with the ball in his hands so far this season.
There was a bit of a scare against Army where he called for help and grasped his lower leg, but he was able to walk under his own power and re-enter the game not long after. Otherwise, he’s had the same speed and bounce that made him X before the injury.
He’s as tenacious on defense as ever and has two other guards on hand willing and able to pressure the ball in Trey Galloway and Gabe Cupps.
Indiana is really going to need him for his scoring ability and experience, in order to come together as a unit as the season goes on.
Teams, especially one like Indiana, are far from finished products right now.
Michigan State just lost to James Madison. Illinois was shaky against Oakland. Saint Mary’s lost. These happen early on and teams can come back from it.
Indiana is starting three dudes it wasn’t last year, and only one of those three was even on the team to begin with. It’s looking for more from its sophomores and finding the lineups that work.
It takes time and demands patience.