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Can the Indiana Hoosiers Win Next Year’s Big Ten Title?

Can Mike Woodson lead the Hoosiers to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in his second year?

Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis (23) celebrates during NCAA First Four tournament game vs. Wyoming
Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis (23) celebrates during NCAA First Four tournament game vs. Wyoming
Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite a rocky end to the Big Ten regular season in 2021-’22, the Indiana Hoosiers enjoyed a remarkably successful year to kick off the Mike Woodson era. In his first year, Woodson led the Hoosiers to their first NCAA Tournament berth in six years. And he did this while establishing a culture of hard work & defensive grit, and teaching leftovers of a previous head coach an entirely new, more efficient offensive system.

Woodson impressed me in his first year, and fans are rightfully excited about the future of Indiana basketball. Not only do the Hoosiers return almost all of their players from last season, they also bring in the No. 10 ranked 2022 recruiting class, headlined by 5-stars Jalen Hood-Schifino (combo guard) and Malik Reneau (power forward), along with a 4-star and a 3-star.

These recruits are especially exciting for a few reasons.

First off, this is the first class that Woodson has recruited himself, so I’m very interested in the style of play these freshmen will exhibit. Second, both of the aforementioned 5-stars went to the same high school—Florida basketball powerhouse Montverde Academy. Thus, they’ll have chemistry right off the bat, and I’d imagine Woodson will take advantage by playing sets with them on the floor together. Finally, Woodson beefed up an already stellar frontcourt with the addition of PFs Reneau and 4-star Kaleb Banks.

Indiana should have one of the better frontcourts in the country, as Banks and Reneau join a Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Jordan Geronimo, and Miller Kopp. But what will really determine this team’s success is the backcourt.

To start the year, senior Xavier Johnson and sophomore Tamar Bates figure to play big minutes alongside Hood-Schifino. Time will tell if Hood-Schifino can be a true point guard for Indiana, but my guess would be that Woodson will rely on the experience and creation from Johnson to run point.

The Hoosiers will have a lot of flexibility and versatility at the 2- & 3-spot, with Hood Schifino and Tamar Bates likely to play big minutes. Senior Miller Kopp also figures to play key roles. Then, it’s a mad-dash for minutes between sophomores Khristian Lander & Trey Galloway, freshman 3-star (and Indiana native) CJ Gunn, and others.

Hoosier fans are rightfully excited about next season; they return nearly everybody from last year’s team, including star big man Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, and Woodson has secured a top-10 recruiting class. I mean, on paper everything looks like sunshine and rainbows.

But let’s pump the brakes here.

Just because every player returns doesn’t necessarily mean they will take a jump. The key returnees are all juniors and seniors, and frankly, I think many of them are already playing at or near their ceiling. If Indiana wants to take the next step and compete for a Big Ten title, they need their young guys—namely Tamar Bates, Trey Galloway, and Jordan Geronimo—to step up. And they need their freshmen to pan out. None of that is a guarantee.

I see Indiana as a fringe-top 25 team with tremendous upside. I think they’ll make the tournament as a 6- to 10-seed, with potential for a Sweet 16 run. I’m fully on board the Woodson bandwagon, and regardless of this season, the future is looking bright in Bloomington.

[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to a player who transferred from Indiana. The article has been corrected to fix that error.]