(THE ALMANAC)

KEY DEPARTURES PARKER STEWART (6.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg) ROB PHINISEE (4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg)

KEY NEWCOMERS JALEN HOOD-SCHIFINO (freshman, Montverde Aca.) MALIK RENEAU (freshman, Montverde Academy) KALEB BANKS (freshman, Fayette County HS) CJ GUNN (freshman, Lawrence North HS)

It all changed quickly for Mike Woodson and the Indiana Hoosiers. In his first season at his alma mater, his most important task was to retain Trayce Jackson-Davis — and he did just that. But even with TJD, the Hoosiers were squarely on the bubble entering the Big Ten Tournament following a 9-11 league performance. Then came a win over Michigan and the huge upset over Illinois to get Indiana back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2016. “We had our ups and downs,” Woodson said. “But for the most part, you know, we made the late run that we needed to make to break that streak of not being in tournament play, and we were able to get in tournament play.” Frankly, Indiana didn’t lose much from last season — and that’s why the expectations are so high for 2022-23, despite being a Big Ten tourney loss away from playing in the NIT. The Hoosiers lost one starter, Parker Stewart, but the veteran wing only averaged 6.2 points per game. The other departures were Rob Phinisee (4.5 ppg), Khristian Lander (2.9 ppg) and Michael Durr (1.5 ppg), all of whom transferred to other programs in search of expanded roles. Everyone else returned, and Woodson and his staff also brought in a pair of top[1]30 freshmen. There is so shortage of excitement in Bloomington these days.

ROAD TO SUCCESS

Jackson-Davis was extremely close to leaving after the season. The 6-9 forward was invited to the NBA Draft combine but was then hit with COVID and wasn’t able to attend. Ultimately, he withdrew from the process and decided to return for his senior season, giving the Hoosiers their star — and one of the top players in America — one last go-round in Bloomington. TJD averaged 18.3 points and 8.1 rebounds last season and is an experienced big man who produces nearly every single game. He can score on the block and is a force on the glass. The hope is that he can step out and keep defenses honest in the mid-range this season. “I think he improved in a lot of areas last season, but he’s got to make a major jump and we’ve got to ride him pretty much like we did last year,” Woodson said. “But I think the supporting cast around him will be a lot better.” One familiar face will be TJD’s running mate up front: fifth-year 6-8 forward Race Thompson. The pair are similar in some ways as neither are guys who have been able to space the court, but they are hard-working big men who get a lot done in and around the paint. “I don’t think we do half the things we did last year without Race,” Woodson said. “He does all the intangible things to help you win.” Xavier Johnson was inconsistent at times last season, but reached double figures as a scorer in 11 straight games to end the year. More importantly, the 6-3 point guard who transferred in from Pittsburgh was able to also balance scoring with setting up teammates. In the final half-dozen games of the season, Johnson averaged 7.7 assists to only 2.8 turnovers per game. “He was playing his best basketball down the stretch for us,” Woodson said, “and where he is today, I see a major, major jump.” Miller Kopp is back after starting all 35 games last season, but he’ll have to fight — and make shots — to retain his starting spot this year. The 6-7 senior forward only averaged 6.0 points per game and made 39-of-108 (36 percent) from deep a year ago. Look for versatile sophomore Tamar Bates to challenge Kopp for the starting spot. The 6-5, 190-pound sophomore averaged 3.9 points per contest and is a much better shooter than his 30 percent shooting from long distance would indicate. Whoever spaces the floor better may have the edge to start. Look for freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino to earn the final starting spot. Hood-Schifino is a 6-6, 215-pound guard from Pittsburgh who went to Montverde Academy. He has the size and passing ability to be able to mesh well with Johnson in the backcourt. The question sur[1]rounding Hood-Schifino is whether he can be a reliable shooter from deep. Woodson also brings back two more key reserves from last season in juniors Trey Galloway and Jordan Geronimo. The 6-4 Galloway has averaged about 20 minutes a game coming off the bench each of his first two seasons and gives the Hoosiers a versatile wing who does a little bit of everything. The 6-6, 220-pound Geronimo (4.4 ppg) got about a dozen minutes off the bench last year, but showed flashes — including a 15-point, seven-rebound performance in the win over Wyoming in the NCAA Tournament. Woodson’s recruiting class was led by Montverde teammates and top-30 players Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau. Reneau is a skilled 6-9 forward who can give Woodson a different look up front than Jackson-Davis and Thompson. They are joined by top 100 freshman Kaleb Banks and wing CJ Gunn in the class. Banks is a 6-8 big, athletic wing who can shoot it and has a high ceiling. It’ll be interesting to see how much he can contribute this season. Gunn is a 6-6 wing who can score off the bounce and also while coming off screens. Look for 6-10 sophomore big man Logan Duncomb and 6-5 junior Anthony Leal, a local kid, to give the Hoosiers depth.

POTENTIAL POTHOLES

This is an Indiana team that has a couple of traditional big men in TJD and Thompson. Jackson-Davis hasn’t made a single 3-pointer in three seasons in college while Thompson has made a total of 21 in four years with the Hoosiers. Stewart, who transferred back to UT Martin, only averaged 6.2 points per game, but he did lead Indiana with 53 made 3-pointers, and he shot 39 percent from deep. Johnson wasn’t much of a long-range shooter in his three years at Pittsburgh. Despite an unorthodox shot, he con[1]verted 38 percent of his 3-pointers last season. Kopp is also a deep threat, but he has flickered from beyond the arc since shooting 39.6 percent at Northwestern in 2019- 20. Hood-Schifino, meanwhile, is not known for his shooting. Indiana could again struggle to space the floor.

THE X-FACTOR

When it comes to finding shooters, Kopp and Bates stand out as possible solutions. Kopp came into college with the rep of being a knock-down shooter. He’s had his moments, but has only shot better than 36 percent from 3 one season in his career — when he made 65 triples during his sophomore campaign at Northwestern. Bates has been shooting it extremely well this past offseason after struggling as a freshman. The hope is that with more reps, Bates can shoot in the high 30s. Indiana will need one of these two to emerge as legit threats from beyond the arc. Otherwise, it’ll put too much pressure on Johnson to have to make them. While he did make enough a year ago, that’s not the strength of his game.

THE OUTLOOK

Indiana has plenty of momentum after the late surge that got the Hoosiers into the NCAA Tournament. It’ll be interesting, though, to see if they can pick up where they left off or if they look more like the squad that was up and down throughout much of the regular season. Jackson-Davis and Thompson are known quantities, and Johnson was tremendous down the stretch last season. Woodson has brought in a couple of talented freshmen in Hood-Schifino and Reneau, and there’s also plenty of quality depth with Bates, Galloway and Geronimo. After getting into the Big Dance last season, now the Hoosiers will be picked by many to win the Big Ten this year. “The only thing I’m pushing is, first things first, trying to win a Big Ten title next season. Once we get into tournament play, if we are fortunate enough to make that happen, then we’ll go from there,” Woodson said. Then the goal is to take the next step: getting to the second weekend in the NCAA Tournament.