The 2022-’23 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2022-’23 season with analysis on each program’s previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team’s starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local “insider” who covers said team.
If you looked up “frustration” in the dictionary, you very well might find a picture of Indiana under Archie Miller next to the definition. That’s because, despite all the hope and expectations surrounding Miller’s tenure in Bloomington, things fell flat. Miller could never deliver for the Hoosiers, failing to lead Indiana to the promised land, or even in the Big Dance, for that matter. It was an abject failure.
The program then turned to Mike Woodson. And while Woodson didn’t have any recent college experience, he had an NBA pedigree, plenty of knowledge about Indiana’s program, and a fresh optimism. He was eventually able to take that and convert it into a pretty respectable debut season. The Hoosiers were a flawed team in year one, but were good enough to make some noise in the Big Ten and get back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2016.
But now comes the hard part.
It’s one thing to make the NCAAs. But it’s another thing to thrive in them.
And, for Indiana, that’s now the challenge. The goal is no longer making the Big Dance, it’s going deep once the Hoosiers get there. It’s about bringing hardware back to Bloomington for the first time since 2016 and making the Final Four for the first time since 2002.
So, can Indiana get the job done? Let’s take a look.
1. 2021-’22 Season Performance
- Record: 21-14 (9-11)
- KenPom Team Rating: #48
- NET Rating: #44
- Postseason Appearance: NCAA Tournament (R64)
Last season was a good one in Bloomington. Fans can bemoan some of the missteps along the way, but Indiana and Woodson achieved what fans had been hoping for in the offseason. For the first time since 2016, the Hoosiers played meaningful basketball in March. Indiana not only won its Big Ten Tournament opener, but knocked off Illinois and then won its First Four matchup against a feisty Wyoming team. While it wasn’t a season anyone’s going to write home about, it did get the program’s monkey off its back and end the skid.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s persistent offensive issues, lackluster shooting, and missteps in February and early March prevented the Hoosiers from turning a solid season into a special one. Specifically, a litany of close conference losses really hurt the team’s resume, including blown road games against Northwestern, Penn State, and Rutgers. It caused what should have been a celebratory Selection Sunday to turn into a stress-filled one. It also pushed Indiana into the First Four and into a really tough matchup against Saint Mary’s. Win another game or two and you likely never face the Gaels.
And that’s the reality of Indiana’s performance last season. Depending on perspective, it was either a middling season or a great first step for a new coaching staff. Realistically, it was likely something in between that. Indiana put some of its past horrors behind it, but left some meat on the bone as well.
Highlights of the season included non-conference wins over St. John’s and Notre Dame, conference wins over Ohio State and Maryland, and the postseason wins over Michigan, Illinois, and Wyoming. Low points included the the aforementioned losses to Northwestern, Penn State, and Rutgers and a blowout loss to Saint Mary’s in the NCAA Tournament.
Individual statistical leaders were Trayce Jackson-Davis and Xavier Johnson. Jackson-Davis led the team in minutes, points, rebounds, blocks, and total win shares. Johnson led the team in assists and steals.
2. Offseason Exits
While initially unexpected, Indiana got off relatively light in offseason departures during the offseason. The Hoosiers only lost five players from last season in Michael Durr, Khristian Lander, Rob Phinisee, Sebastien Scott, and Parker Stewart and only two of the five were even contributors. That’s not too bad considering the typical transition costs you see when a new coach is hired.
The most significant departures are Stewart and Phinisee. Both played in the backcourt and averaged at least 18 minutes a game. The most significant departure was Stewart as he became a consistent starter throughout the season. Stewart wasn’t a high usage player, but avoided turnovers, was efficient when given the ball, and hit 39.3 percent from three-point range. Phinisee was a bit more explosive than Stewart. However, he struggled with consistency and was inconsistent from deep last season.
The other three departures sting far less. Scott was a walk-on that missed time due to injury and both Durr and Lander finished the season averaging below 10 minutes a game. Lander is probably the more notable departure given his high school recruiting profile, but he never delivered on that hype, fighting for playing time during his tenure in Bloomington. His struggles remain perplexing and represent the biggest recruiting miss of the Miller era.
All told, there’s really not much to panic about here. Indiana essentially lost a starter, a bench contributor, and a few other roster pieces from an NCAA Tournament team. That’s not bad in today’s world. Not bad at all.
3. New Additions
This season, the Hoosiers will be adding a variety of new pieces to the roster with four incoming recruits. The recruits are Kaleb Banks, CJ Gunn, Jalen Hood-Schifino, and Malik Reneau. According to 247Sports, Hood-Schifino is rated as a five-star prospect, Banks and Reneau are four-stars, and Gunn is rated as a three-star. Hood-Schifino is a combo guard, Gunn is a shooting guard, and Banks and Reneau are power forwards. Hogan Orbaugh also arrives as a walk-on.
The recruit receiving the most attention is certainly Hood-Schifino. He’s a bonafide five-star prospect and ranked 23rd nationally by 247Sports. What makes him truly special is his unique combination of size, speed, and passing skills. He’s not an elite shooter and can grow from there, but should have more than enough to initiate the offense and push things in transition.
Banks and Reneau are also notable additions. They’re both top 100 prospects that should provide welcome relief at the four and five spots behind Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Reneau should be a physical force down low and Banks should provide depth as well. Gunn will likely be limited to relief duty, but should only make Indiana’s roster deeper and better this season and beyond.
All told, this is a really talented group of additions, particularly considering how little the Hoosiers lost in the offseason. Woodson and staff are effectively replacing a starter and a bench player with a five-star guard, two more top 100 prospects, and another guard prospect. Any team out there would take that exchange.
4. Points of Optimism
There’s a lot to be optimistic about for the Hoosiers this season. Let’s begin with the obvious. Indiana was a pretty solid team last season and returns the vast majority of that roster, including all the team’s top contributors. Johnson returns in the backcourt, Thompson is back on the wing, and superstar Jackson-Davis will hold things down upfront. Few teams boast returning talent like that and that’s just where it starts. Most of the key reserves are back as well as Miller Kopp, who brought experience and stability to Indiana last season as a transfer. Even with modest growth and develop, that’s an incredible place to start.
Additionally, things don’t stop with the returns either. Indiana also adds the Big Ten’s second-best recruiting class, highlighted by three top 100 prospects and another top 175 recruit. That’s an impressive group of newcomers. If even one or two of those players can contribute early, it should fill out the lineup nicely. Even look at Hood-Schifino. He’s a great fit alongside Johnson in the backcourt and should help address the departures of Stewart and Phinisee as well.
Indiana also projects to have an elite defense. Jackson-Davis and Thompson were already a force down low, but now you’re adding even more depth behind them with Banks and Reneau and upgrading your athleticism in the backcourt with Hood-Schifino as well. Considering Indiana already had a top 25 defense, it’s easy to see it taking off even further. In fact, KenPom’s preseason ratings are already projecting a top 10 unit.
The continuity of the staff is also a nice benefit here. For the first time in years, it feels like Indiana and its staff enter a season without a veil of pressure and hot seat speculation overwhelming them. And while that doesn’t win games on the court, it does make things easier on everyone in the program, particularly for young players trying to find their way in the college game. The culture is improving and fans have to be excited about what that might add to an already talented and deep roster.
5. Points of Concern
While Hoosier fans should be excited about what’s to come, there are also some reasons for concern as well. To start, last season needs to be placed in the proper context. While Indiana was a solid team last season, the Hoosiers weren’t great either. Indiana finished 48th on KenPom and easily could have missed the NCAA Tournament. In fact, if Indiana lost to Michigan in its Big Ten Tournament opener as projected, the Hoosiers likely wouldn’t have even made the NCAA Tournament. And for those who forget, Indiana trailed massively in that game. KenPom only gave the Hoosiers a 2.7 percent chance to win with roughly 11 minutes remaining. Indiana deserves credit for pulling out the win, but that’s a much different resume than some have been pushing in the media this offseason. It’s not a team coming off a national championship. It’s a group coming off a bubble bid. It all sets the floor for discussing the Hoosiers heading into this season.
Moreover, Indiana had some serious flaws last season that could easily crossover into this season, specifically on the offensive end. While the Hoosiers found their footing as the year went on, the three-point shooting never really came around. Indiana remained consistently mediocre in that area throughout the season, finishing 200th nationally in three-point percentage and 321st in percentage of team points from outside the arc. And with the team’s best perimeter shooter (Stewart) departing, there’s concern things could get even worse.
It’s also important to note that much of Indiana’s expected improvement this season rests on the program’s newcomers, i.e., freshmen who’ve never played a minute of college basketball before. Putting that much on recent high schoolers is always risky, no matter the talent. And Hoosier fans know this all too well. Look no further than Lander, who transferred this offseason just a few years removed from being named the program’s “savior” himself. Even if the freshmen are just average, it could derail much of Indiana’s potential this season.
Finally, we also can’t forget the step Hoosier fans are hoping the team can take this season. Going from bad to decent is one thing, but going from decent to nationally elite is another. This is the hardest step in sports to take and the Hoosiers are trying to do it in a single offseason. It’s gone wrong for a variety of teams and Indiana could easily find itself on the wrong side of that equation.
6. Top Player
Indiana enters this season with a clear leader for its top player. Jackson-Davis returns after two straight All-American level campaigns and figures to be in the Big Ten Player of the Year race from season’s tip. He is a dominant force inside and one of the most athletically gifted players in the conference. His only real limitations relate to his passing and non-existent perimeter game. However, neither is all that significant at this level.
If anybody is going to challenge Jackson-Davis, it would probably be Hood-Schifino. He has the talent and pedigree to be a special player for the Hoosiers down the line. The obvious question is simply how ready he will be to contribute in Bloomington this season. Other potential darkhorses include the other new additions.
7. 2022-’23 Schedule Breakdown
- 10/29 - Marian University (Ex.)
- 11/3 - Saint Francis (Ex.)
- 11/7 - Morehead State
- 11/10 - Bethune-Cooman
- 11/18 - at Xavier
- 11/20 - Miami (OH) (Indianapolis, IN)
- 11/23 - Little Rock
- 11/25 - Jackson State
- 11/30 - North Carolina
- 12/3 - at Rutgers
- 12/7 - Nebraska
- 12/10 - Arizona (Las Vegas, NV)
- 12/17 - at Kansas
- 12/20 - Elon
- 12/23 - Kennesaw State
- 1/5 - at Iowa
- 1/8 - Northwestern
- 1/11 - at Penn State
- 1/14 - Wisconsin
- 1/19 - at Illinois
- 1/22 - Michigan State
- 1/25 - at Minnesota
- 1/28 - Ohio State
- 1/31 - at Maryland
- 2/4 - Purdue
- 2/7 - Rutgers
- 2/11 - at Michigan
- 2/15 - at Northwestern
- 2/18 - Illinois
- 2/21 - at Michigan State
- 2/25 - at Purdue
- 2/28 - Iowa
- 3/5 - Michigan
This is a really interesting slate and one that’s going to turn a lot of heads. After a few years of relatively soft schedules, Indiana gets a bonafide difficult one here. And it makes sense given the expectations in Bloomington this season. The Hoosiers will get plenty of chances to prove themselves against this slate.
Non-conference play is highlighted by a litany of marquee matchups, including a trip to Kansas, a home game against North Carolina, and a game against Arizona in Vegas. It’s a dangerous slate with little room for error. That’s because outside of the marquee matchups, the schedule is extraordinarily weak. And that’s not a rip. In fact, that approach is quite common. It just means that if Indiana loses its marquee games, there won’t be much there for the resume heading into Big Ten play. It’s a dangerous recipe.
Conference play, of course, will be quite a challenge. Indiana will get double-plays with Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue. That’s a really tough draw. Indiana’s good enough to survive it, but it won’t be easy. That’s for sure. The close of the season will also be particularly difficult, including this:
- 2/11 - at Michigan
- 2/15 - at Northwestern
- 2/18 - Illinois
- 2/21 - at Michigan State
- 2/25 - at Purdue
- 2/28 - Iowa
- 3/5 - Michigan
That’s seven games featuring six games against teams that made last year’s NCAA Tournament and four on the road. The only “gimme” of the bunch is a road game against Northwestern, who beat Indiana last season. In short, Indiana’s got its work cut out. The stretch will unquestionably decide much about Indiana’s season.
8. Projected Starting Lineup
- PG: Xavier Johnson (Sr.) - 95%
- SG: Jalen Hood-Schifino (Fr.) - 75%
- SF: Miller Kopp (Sr.) - 90%
- PF: Race Thompson (Rs. Sr.) - 95%
- C: Trayce Jackson-Davis (Jr.) - 95%
(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)
Thanks to Indiana’s minor offseason losses, the Hoosiers enter this fall with a fairly predictable starting lineup. And that shouldn’t be surprising. Indiana returns four starters and adds a five-star at the only remaining open spot. The biggest question will be how the five come together and who plays behind them.
In the backcourt, expect Johnson and Hood-Schifino to lock things down. Johnson was arguably the team’s second-best player last season, so he’s an easy pick here. And Hood-Schifino seems like an easy pick to start as well. He’s an immensely talented piece that’s more than capable of starting from day one. He also seems like a decent skillset fit with Johnson as well, making him an even easier pick to start. Behind those two, expect Trey Galloway and Gunn to fill in for most of the minutes. Tamar Bates is also a potential depth option. One other advantage for the Hoosiers is that Hood-Schifino is capable of playing at both spots, so Woodson can mitigate some of the bench minutes by sliding Hood-Schifino over to the one when Johnson hits the bench.
On the wing, Kopp and Thompson are pretty easy to pencil in as starters. They both played productively last season and Thompson showed some really nice moments. The bench minutes behind those two will likely come from Banks and Reneau. Both have solid potential and should fill in nicely. Jordan Geronimo may also get an opportunity to get some playing time as well.
The final spot will be locked down by Jackson-Davis. He’s an All-American candidate and should make a major push for Big Ten Player of the Year by season’s end. The only real question here is who will play behind him with Durr’s transfer. The most likely options are Duncomb and Reneau. Thompson could also play sparingly here if things really go sour. However, the vast majority of the minutes here will be for Jackson-Davis.
Overall, this is a really solid starting lineup with a litany of bench options. This team is absolutely deeper and more experienced than it was last year and it starts upfront. If the Hoosiers can get productivity from Hood-Schifino early, they have a chance to fill out things nicely.
9. Realistic Team Goals
For the first time since 2017, Indiana enters a season with national expectations. While some of those expectations depend on projection, this is different than the last few years, when the Hoosiers depended on hype and recruiting rankings more than results. This time, Indiana enters the season as a largely known commodity. We don’t have to wonder about players like Jackson-Davis or Thompson. It makes Indiana’s goals all the more tangible.
The question is simply how far Indiana can take that base. The Hoosiers are more than capable of winning the Big Ten and going deep in March this year. And if some of those freshmen hit the ground running, perhaps Indiana could find itself playing in the final weekend in March. It’s going to be that kind of year. And that means the team’s goals need to be sky high. Indiana should be focused on winning the Big Ten and the second weekend and beyond. Anything else would be a disappointment.
10. Overall Season Outlook
Ever since the Tom Crean era skidded to a halt, Hoosier fans have been waiting for the program’s return to relevance. Instead, they’ve been treated to a variety of mishaps, missed postseasons, and disappointing losses. It’s been one crushing blow after another.
However, that’s finally set to end this year. That’s because Indiana enters this season with legitimately lofty expectations. Indiana returns a proven starting lineup and adds one of the Big Ten’s best groups of newcomers. If even a few things bounce right, this could be a really special season in Bloomington.
We’ll have to wait and see how everything turns out, but Indiana presently projects as the best team in the conference as we enter the season. And with even some moderate growth, Indiana should be competing for a Final Four at season’s end.