A season after ending a five-year NCAA Tournament drought, Indiana men’s basketball enters the 2022-23 season with more preseason hype than it has seen in a decade. Head coach Mike Woodson is back for year two with one goal in mind: to raise another banner.
Indiana tips off the season against Morehead State University at 7:00 p.m. Monday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Before the team’s season opener, the Indiana Daily Student men’s basketball reporters share their predictions and analysis for the upcoming season.
Most valuable player
EMMA PAWLITZ: In all honesty, it would probably be foolish to say anyone other than Trayce Jackson-Davis. I have no reason to believe that he won’t continue to show flashes of stardom similar to last year’s 43-point outing against Marshall and his incredible Big Ten Tournament performance that led the Hoosiers to the semifinals. And, with Woodson in his second year, Jackson-Davis' confidence as a captain has probably soared, considering the mutual respect we’ve seen those two show each other. TJD is the clear-cut favorite for me.
EVAN GERIKE: It’s been Jackson-Davis for three years now, so we won’t kid ourselves and say anyone else. For the last two years it’s been a will-he, won’t-he dance on whether Jackson-Davis would enter the NBA Draft. But he’s bought into Woodson’s vision, and now he wants to leave a legacy that goes beyond individual statistics. If he’s as good as we all expect him to be, he’ll carry the Hoosiers a long way toward a Big Ten title.
BRADLEY HOHULIN: Jackson-Davis is almost certainly Indiana’s best player. I have probably spent more time watching him back down enormous defenders in the paint than I’ve spent studying for any class in seven semesters at Indiana. But for the Hoosiers to beat the best teams on their schedule, they need graduate student guard Xavier Johnson to open up the offense with his passing and perimeter scoring. Guard play and shooting have haunted Indiana recently, and Johnson is the clearest solution to breaking through.
Newcomer of the year
PAWLITZ: After watching Indiana’s first exhibition game, it seemed to be a toss-up between Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau for which star-studded freshman would shine the brightest this season. However, considering Hood-Schifino isn’t coming off the bench behind the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, he has my vote for newcomer of the year. He’ll have chances to be the primary facilitator in crunch time and is a very skilled shot-making guard. Hood-Schifino has already shown he plays beyond his years and will likely be Indiana’s first one-and-done since Romeo Langford in 2019.
GERIKE: As Emma mentioned, five-stars Hood-Schifino and Reneau are the only two realistic options for newcomer of the year after a quick scan of the roster. For the sake of individuality, I’ll go with Reneau. He has a chance to help the second line rotation take a massive step forward, and as Jackson-Davis's backup, could provide the Hoosiers with an additional boost when the star is off the floor. While he’ll have some growing pains against some of the nation’s premier big men, Reneau is bridging Indiana to the post-TJD years.
HOHULIN: You have to actually be on the court to shine, and Hood-Schifino will likely be the only regular starter among this year’s freshmen. Sure, he’ll have some rough spots. I’ve seen Indiana freshmen break down in tears in the middle of Wright Dining Hall because of a finite math midterm, so I don’t expect this 18-year-old to immediately look like an NBA point guard against Big Ten defenses. Still, Hood-Schifino is the conference preseason freshman of the year. I expect we’ll see why before the season’s over.
Breakout player of the year
PAWLITZ: Tamar Bates has my vote for this one. We’ve heard his teammates sing his praises over the course of the offseason, and it looks like he’s gotten visibly stronger, too. I think there’s a lot of flexibility at the 1- and 2-guard positions this year, and Woodson might try out different combinations of Bates, Hood-Schifino, Johnson and Trey Galloway in those spots. Bates also showed last season he has strong shot-making potential, and he could end up being one of the Hoosiers’ go-to guys to get a late-game bucket.
GERIKE: Galloway was bordering on being a breakout candidate last year before losing a good chunk of the season to injury. He plays with a bit of reckless abandon, which can surely make a coach nervous, but his scrappy play seemed to help dig Indiana out of a few holes. Behind Race Thompson, he might be Indiana’s next glue guy, and the energy he brings on the court can help him break out this season.
HOHULIN: Junior forward Jordan Geronimo’s performance against Marian was a microcosm of his career at Indiana. He showcased glimpses of smothering defense, aggressive rebounding and weirdly great touch from the 3-point line. He also had three personal fouls before he’d been on the court for three full minutes. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Geronimo’s physical potential is palpable. For him, discipline might be the difference between a dominant two-way player and becoming a super jacked bench warmer.
Game to watch
PAWLITZ: In contrast to last season, Indiana’s nonconference schedule is packed with must-watch games. The one I’m most excited for, though, is the North Carolina matchup on Nov. 30. The makeup of the Hoosiers’ and Tar Heels’ squads is oddly similar, considering both return standout power forwards among four of last season’s starters. And, with North Carolina coming off an improbable postseason run to send Coach K and Duke home from the Final Four, the swagger is going to be at an all-time high. Plus, old Northwestern roommates Miller Kopp and Pete Nance going head-to-head? Sign me up. The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is always one of my favorite events of the college basketball season, but this game is going to be especially electric.
GERIKE: Indiana loaded up its nonconference schedule this season, and Woodson has been upfront about continuing that trend moving forward as Indiana gets better (Kentucky, anyone?). Outside of what is sure to be a charged atmosphere in Assembly Hall when UNC comes to town, Indiana’s most exciting game will be against the defending national champion Kansas on Dec. 17. It’s the last ranked nonconference opponent Indiana faces, so we’ll see exactly what kind of team it is when this one’s over.
HOHULIN: Indiana travels to Las Vegas on Dec. 10 to take on an Arizona squad that averaged 84 points per game last season. That may sound utterly ridiculous, but that’s only because it is — just two teams outscored Arizona on a per-game basis. The Hoosiers will have to play their best defensive game of the year to pin down the Wildcats. They might have to play their best offensive game of the decade to outpace them. Either way, this clash of two very distinct but effective styles should be must-watch television.
PAWLITZ: Indiana is slated to win the Big Ten, something I think the Hoosiers can actually pull off during the regular season. Still, I think it’s close to impossible for any team to win a conference regular season title and tournament championship. I see them getting knocked out of the Big Ten Tourney in the semifinals or finals and going into Selection Sunday to earn a 3 or 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think an Elite Eight appearance might be the ceiling for this team, but we’ll see how mentally tough Woodson’s squad is throughout its monster of a nonconference schedule.
GERIKE: Indiana’s schedule is absolutely brutal. A tough nonconference schedule followed by an even tougher conference schedule might be the only reason the Hoosiers don’t win the Big Ten. I’ll be the group pessimist and say Indiana will finish in second place in the regular season and fall in the semifinals of the tournament. Come March Madness, Indiana could still be well suited for a favorable postseason run. An Elite Eight exit is best case scenario and a loss in the Sweet Sixteen feels most likely.
HOHULIN: Indiana has the depth of talent to compete for a Big Ten title. Still, going from 9-11 in conference play a year ago to champions is a tall order, and it’s not like Purdue or Iowa forgot how to play basketball over the summer. In a rational world, the Hoosiers make it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. In the real, bizarre world of college basketball, they could also lose in the first round to a mostly online commuter school in South Dakota that you didn’t know existed. It happens. Just enjoy the ride there.
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