Okay, first thing’s first.
Indiana men’s basketball’s loss to Miami in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was, uh, less than ideal. Between rebounds and sheer athleticism, there was a lot to dissect. That’s for another story, let’s talk about this season.
This was the best Indiana team in years. Led by second year head coach Mike Woodson and star Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers gave the team and fanbase plenty of memories. 67 teams’ seasons end the way Indiana’s did, no reason not to cherish what was.
First, Jackson-Davis came back. He didn’t have to, could’ve rode off into the sunset and worked his way up in the NBA, but he did. He set new records, climbed the all-time lists and will leave Bloomington as a program legend.
He is, without so much as a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest Indiana Hoosiers of all-time. Between his roof-raising dunks and his leadership, he was a centerpiece for both the fanbase and the team itself. He put faith in Woodson upon the latter’s hiring, and ended up as an AP First Team All-American as a result.
Let’s talk about Woodson too. Two tournament appearances in as many years is the standard at Indiana, historically speaking. But it hasn’t been for a few years now and he’s done it with players who weren’t his.
Through all of his years in the NBA head coach, never had he coached an offense so focused around a post player. Jackson-Davis’ sheer ability necessitated that, and the two brought the best out of one another.
Not to mention coaching Trey Galloway to his most productive season and getting the Hoosiers to overcome an initial stumble in conference play to finish tied for second despite missing their starting point guard, Xavier Johnson.
The Hoosiers were victorious on the road in the Gavitt Games matchup with the Xavier Musketeers and at home in the ACC Challenge against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Then they went and swept rival Purdue.
Woodson put together a good team during his second year in Bloomington. The injury to Johnson will plague fans with thoughts of “what-if” for years to come, but that’s all it will be at the end of the day.
Indiana had to do the best with what it had and this season wasn’t a failure by any stretch of the word.
Now Indiana faces the most interesting offseason it’s seen in years. The Hoosiers will be without the likes of Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp. That’s a lot of production to replace, so expect the transfer portal to come into play.
Not to mention 2022’s freshmen class. Jalen Hood-Schifino is obviously the headliner, having taken the reins of the offense from Johnson during Big Ten play. He had moments of brilliance throughout the season, making highlight-reel passes and taking a blowtorch to Purdue’s defense in Mackey Arena as the Boilers were utterly helpless to stop him.
Kaleb Banks logged a few key minutes in the latter half of the season while Malik Reneau grew into his own in a reserve role for Thompson and Jackson-Davis. C.J. Gunn saw his playing time dwindle, but there’s plenty of time to develop this offseason.
Those three will be key to Indiana’s hopes next season as Woodson and the rest of Indiana’s staff looks to develop them into true contributors. Hood-Schifino, on the other hand, has an NBA future if he chooses to take that road.
There’s the incoming freshmen, guards Gabe Cupps and Jakai Newton, to bolster next year’s backcourt.
Finally, and as previously mentioned, there’s the great unknown of the transfer portal. Indiana could have losses, but it’ll almost certainly have gains. Next year’s roster, pending Johnson’s injury waiver, could use some more experience.
Johnson himself was a portal addition, so there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic on that front.
But that was the 2022-23 season. There’s more basketball to be played tonight from Teri Moren’s programs and plenty of updates to write in the coming weeks. We’ll see you then.