Indiana men’s basketball will open its 2023-24 regular season against Florida Gulf Coast University at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Indiana is looking to build off last year’s 23-12 season, but the Hoosiers’ roster underwent a complete makeover. Indiana lost four of its five starters but welcomed 10 newcomers to a team with high potential but several uncertainties.
The Hoosiers played two exhibition games to find some footing before taking the court in competition that counts, and they struggled early in their first matchup against the University of Indianapolis. Indiana trailed at halftime and shot an uninspiring 32.3% from the field in the frame, missing several easy shots around the rim.
The cream and crimson eventually warmed up and cruised to a 22-point victory, and its high-profile newcomers led the way — a sign of the high ceiling the Hoosiers can reach. Sophomore center Kel’el Ware and freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako, both 5-star recruits, each finished the contest with 14 points to lead all scorers.
In its second exhibition, Indiana handled Marian University 94-61, putting together a much more complete performance. It was again Ware and Mgbako who paced the Hoosiers in scoring, but it was a promising performance from Indiana behind the arc and at the charity stripe, shooting 9-of-17 from deep and 21-of-25 from the line — another improvement from its first game.
While most Power Five teams schedule easy tune-up games for their season opener, Indiana can’t afford to let its guard down. Florida Gulf Coast is no stranger to pulling off an upset.
The Eagles were able to escape Los Angeles, California with an unlikely win in last season’s opener. FGCU visited the University of Southern California — a team that went 22-11 and made the NCAA Tournament — and stunned the Trojans 74-61.
Last year wasn’t the only time the Eagles shocked the nation, as 10 years ago they became a Cinderella darling in the NCAA Tournament. Competing as a No. 15 seed, FGCU stunned No. 2 seed Georgetown University and soared to the Sweet Sixteen, earning the nickname “Dunk City” due to its high-flying forwards and ability to throw lobs consistently.
Despite last season’s shocker over USC, FGCU finished its campaign 17-15 and did not compete in any postseason play. However, the program returns three of its top four scorers and is led by some familiar faces to the Hoosiers.
The Eagles’ leading scorer was now-senior guard Isaiah Thompson, who averaged 14.9 points per game. Thompson attended Zionsville Community High School, then played at Purdue for three seasons.
Leading FGCU from the bench is head coach Pat Chambers, who did his due diligence in the Big Ten as well. Entering his second season in Fort Myers, Chambers coached Penn State for nine seasons before unceremoniously resigning in the midst of an investigation into allegations of misconduct.
Indiana has won five consecutive season-opening contests. The Hoosiers last lost their regular-season debut Nov. 10, 2017, against Indiana State University in a 90-69 thumping.
Indiana will honor Bill Garrett on Tuesday night. This year marks 75 years since Garrett broke the unofficial color barrier in the Big Ten as the first Black player to start for a Big Ten team. There will be specialty game programs provided which replicate those of the 1948-49 season.
Tuesday night’s contest will be available to watch on Big Ten Network.