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Indiana men’s basketball: January mailbag

You ask, we answer.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana has a substantial break between road games against Wisconsin and Illinois.

With the season seemingly at a crossroads with bright spots becoming few and far between, we decided to open the floor to questions on Twitter (not calling it by the dumb new name, sorry not sorry).

Here we go:

On the adidas contract

These things are typically announced by now. Indiana’s deal is up at the end of the year.

There’s been a good amount of grief with the three stripes and Indiana’s fanbase between merchandising options and the football uniform fiasco last fall. But it’s worth considering a few things before advocating for a jump to another brand.

For one, Indiana is among adidas’ top brands in basketball and will be compensated rather handsomely as a result. The only teams that could rival Indiana’s appeal are Kansas and Louisville. Brands occasionally carry some weight in recruiting but Indiana generally has the resources to offset any concerns there.

Both Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino were adidas athletes last year. It looks like Sydney Parrish is one this year.

On top of that, adidas is a valuable soccer brand given its decades-long partnership with FIFA and other large organizations. Being Indiana’s most successful sport, you have to consider the weight that carries.

On Xavier Johnson

This is a complicated one.

Indiana has a large, passionate fanbase that is wont to share its opinions, particularly on social media. Xavier Johnson is in a slump that is somewhat of his own making given the technical fouls and whatnot.

But... consider Johnson’s experiences here. He went almost all of last season not playing basketball and had to go through that for a stretch again this season. He’s the captain who was, and is, the key to Indiana’s success.

The rehab process was hard for him and he tried to be as present and supportive for his teammates as he could. He’s gone through that twice.

Indiana opted for a sixth year senior over a transfer, he was going to be the Hoosiers’ lead guard regardless and that made recruiting through the portal a bit more difficult. Now he’s trying to find himself again.

I don’t exactly love the pile on but the fanbase is going to do what it does. Hope he’s doing alright.

On guards

So I’ve avoided broad offseason writing but I’ll dip my toes in here.

Indiana is probably losing:

  • Kel’el Ware
  • Anthony Walker
  • Xavier Johnson
  • At least one portal entry

This upcoming offseason. Trey is likely staying for another year (which would be good) and Mgbako hasn’t shown up enough in NBA Draft buzz. Plus the potential of Mgbako playing alongside Liam McNeeley, who will get him the ball, could be intriguing.

So Indiana’s probably going to need to add some to the frontcourt but I believe the backcourt will be a priority this offseason as the frontcourt was last. Unless Indiana gets a surprise lead guard as a freshman somehow, they probably fill that spot in the portal. They could also really, really use a good 2.

Galloway can be an energy guy off the bench while Cupps has more time to work on his game.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Jakai Newton will be healthy next season but will for all intents and purposes be a freshman. He’d be able to do a lot of the things Indiana is missing right now.

As far as 2024? I doubt McNeeley ends up being their only signee. I say that with no inside info, but Mike Woodson is on the road recruiting for 2024 on Tuesday. Next year is still a priority and I’d imagine they look to add something in the backcourt.

On Dusty May

I would have thought that the Archie Miller experience would have helped people realize that the shiny new thing isn’t always the best option, but here we are.

Archie aside, that hiring cycle also saw Chris Holtmann make the jump to a big time program. Holtmann has had stretches in each season at Ohio State that would have had Indiana fans sharpening their pitchforks.

Back to Dusty, yes, of course I was impressed by his NCAA tournament run last year, but it was only his second time as the coach at FAU going over .500 in Conference USA. FAU has had a good season this year, but already has twice as many conference losses as last year’s miracle team. His success isn’t as straightforward as his fans would like to pretend.

I’d be open to revisiting this conversation a year or two from now when its clearer how Woodson’s and May’s respective tenures are going, we just aren’t there yet. Even repeat tournament darlings like Porter Moser and Shaka Smart have struggled to have sustained success at Power Five schools.

On Derik Queen

It is probably going to be a while before that gets resolved.

Which, honestly, that’s fine! He’s making the biggest decision of his life to this point that will shape his future. Indiana has done a really good deal of work in that department and McNeeley is regularly in his ear, but all anyone can do now is sit and wait.

On Mike Woodson

I’m going to be real, Woodson probably has to get next season right to feel good.

Right now he’s able to cite the success he had developing and playing Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino. But this is his team now with his players. He needs to show he can get Indiana to be a year in year out tournament team and can’t afford to miss it twice in a row.

That said, he seems to have a lot more going for him than his immediate predecessors. Woodson has landed five of the top ten recruits in program history, not counting his portal hauls that yielded Kel’el Ware and Xavier Johnson.

I also think we know a little bit less about his coaching style and tendencies than we did with either Crean or Archie. Nobody wants to hear “wait til’ he gets his guys” after the Archie fiasco, but this is the first time in three years he has a team without an inherited consensus All-American.

Players like Trayce Jackson-Davis don’t come around often and this season seems like Woodson adjusting to that fact. So long as he can show adjustments and improvements next year without a TJD caliber dude, I still think he can get us where we need to be.