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The Indiana Daily Student

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What to look for in Indiana men’s basketball’s exhibition games

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For the first time since March 5, Indiana men’s basketball will grace the floor of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to play a game. The Hoosiers play two exhibition games before the regular season, facing the University of Indianapolis at 1 p.m. Sunday and Marian University at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 3. 

Before Indiana tips off, here are three notable things to keep an eye out for: 

Indiana’s new look offense 

Following years of running a post-centric offense revolving around former star Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosier legend’s departure along with three other starters from last year likely marked the end of that play style. Head coach Mike Woodson has remarked his interest in running an NBA style offense, and with new pieces it should be plausible.  

Stretch big sophomore center Kel’el Ware and deep ball specialist freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako highlight the Hoosiers’ new additions who could drastically change the way Indiana plays. Playing with four or even all five players on the perimeter is possible with certain lineups and will provide a breath of fresh air from the more traditional play style Indiana favored in seasons prior. 

Xavier Johnson’s return 

When then-senior guard Xavier Johnson went down with a foot injury against the University of Kansas on Dec. 17, the severity of the injury and further implications it brought were a mystery. Johnson’s absence meant Indiana losing its play caller, best perimeter on-ball defender and a seasoned veteran. While then-freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino was able to keep the Hoosiers afloat, the holes Johnson’s omission left hurt the Hoosiers mightily.  

The NCAA granted Johnson a hardship waiver to allow him to return for his sixth year. Fully recovered from injury, Johnson is ready to lead the Hoosiers in his final collegiate season.  

The Woodbridge, Virginia native averaged 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and four assists per game in his four games played in the 2022-23 season. With no clear number one option on this year’s roster, it’s likely Johnson will take an impactful step forward statistically. 

Who becomes the go-to guy? 

Jackson-Davis' departure carries several implications for the program. At the top of that list is the absence of a go-to guy. Whenever the Hoosiers have needed a big bucket or a defensive stop the past few seasons, Jackson-Davis always answered the call. Now, that role has been re-opened. 

There are several candidates to inherit the job, but no one is the clear-cut answer. Johnson and senior guard Trey Galloway provide the most experience on the roster, but neither ever needed to make the biggest play with Jackson-Davis on the floor, so their capabilities of handling the task are unknown. 

Ware and Mgbako are the two most talented players on the roster as evidenced by their 5-star rankings out of high school, but assuming the heavy lifting is a tall task for anyone, let alone newcomers to the program. 

Sophomore forward Malik Reneau served backup to Jackson-Davis last year and is expected to take a large leap forward as a starter this season, but can it be big enough to immediately assume the same role in any capacity? Only time will tell. 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 

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