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2021- 2022 Indiana Basketball Preview: New Year, New Coach, New Results?

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Surely it can’t be as bad as last year.

You think he uses turtle wax for that shine?
The Athletic

My oh my. Basketball season, you beautiful bastard, you’re back. You’re back with some enthusiasm too! Especially in the heart of southern Indiana, basketball has a little extra buzz. Why’s that you ask? Well it’s because Indiana has a new coach with deep ties to the program’s past! That’s right! We fired the little guy!

Mike Woodson, former NBA player, coach, and Indiana Hoosier, is now the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers. Many, many people are excited for this for various reasons. I personally, do not find the hire to be particularly sexy given Woody’s 315-365 coaching record and lack of college experience. I also don’t find it to be in the best interest of the program to keep going back to the Knight disciple well. That said, I’m never right and Woodson has proven his worth immediately by getting Trayce Jackson-Davis to return, as well as convincing a majority of the Indiana Hoosier roster to come out of the portal and stay put, and getting surprise recruit Tamar Bates to commit to Indiana.

It looks like I may be wrong to be unexcited. Forgive me for remaining too pessimistic because the last time I was excited about a hire, Archie broke my heart and every backboard within the tri-county area. Enough of an introduction, onto the regularly scheduled OTE basketball preview format.

2020-2021 Season Recap

What’s the best way to recap one of the most disappointing seasons under one of the most disappointing coaches in Indiana history….probably best to do rapid fire and keep it quick, and go 4 conference games at a time.

Indiana started a weird season 5-2 losing to ranked Texas by a ton in the Maui Invitational Not In Maui, and then losing at ranked Florida State in overtime.

Indiana started Conference play 2-2, including a horrendous loss to Northwestern in the opener and a heart breaker to Illinois.

Continuing the trend to hit the middle part of the bell-curve, Indiana went 2-2- to continue, knocking off Iowa at Iowa and beating Nebraska at Nebraska. The two losses to a highly ranked Wisconsin team in overtime and a Purdue game that made me almost toss my child at the screen were not ideal.

Indiana went 2-2 again, this time having a game vs Michigan cancelled due to COVID, losing to the ‘gers and Illinois in heartbreaking fashion (seeing a theme?) and then beating Iowa and a mighty Northwestern team who took them to overtime.

In what can only be described as the “anti-Michigan State” strategy, Indiana decided to play its worst ball as late February arrived, going 1-3 in their next 4 games, only beating a Minnesota team who….was really bad.

Indiana finished weak going 0-4 in the final stretch, losing to Rutgers in the conference final to end the season and end Archie’s Indiana career.

On March 15th, Archie Miller was fired by 2 private donations and a whole bunch of pissed off middle aged fans. Jokes aside, it was the right decision. Most of the Indiana roster entered the transfer portal or draft at that time.

On March 29th, after trying to seduce Brad Stevens, Indiana decided to give it a try with Mike Woodson. It did not take long for Coach Woodson to keep most of the players who entered the draft or portal.

Yep, that pretty much recaps the whole thing.

The Roster

Departures

Graduations

  • Cooper Bybee

Not really a factor on the team, but a local kid from Edgewood who was nice to keep around.

Grad Transfer

  • Al Durham -> Providence

Al Durham was the lone senior that saw minutes last season. In fact, Al has been a stable part of the program over the past 4 years. That said, Al didn’t stick around after Archie was out, and transferred to Providence. He’ll be missed as he was a serviceable player who could get hot.

Regular Transfers

Joey Brunk was a solid player in the 2019-2020 season. The transfer from Butler to Indiana sat out last season with what was described as a back injury. Big guy, big force, talented player but still more of a role player than anything. He will be missed as well.

Jerome Hunter will…be…missed…too? Jerome was always kind of an enigma to me. He is uniquely talented and has great size, but he never quite solidified into a major factor all season. He had spurts and made a few big plays here and there, but the consistency was never there.

The largest piece that is not coming back is Armaan Franklin. Franklin was “the” guard for Indiana last year. Armaan made big shots, was the lone guard who possessed the ability to score, and was the second best player on the roster last season. He is a hole that someone must step up and fill.

Additions

Transfer Portal

The new additions seem to be pretty decent and established. Starting with Xavier Johnson, Johnson adds some much needed experience at the guard position. His experience, size, and shooting ability look like he could help fill the gap Armaan leaves behind. Johnson comes to Indiana with 2 years of eligibility remaining.

Miller Kopp is another nice pickup from the transfer portal. His reputation as a shooter definitely fills a need Indiana has. He seems to be a one for one swap with Jerome Hunter as far as production goes. Is his ceiling that high? No idea, but he also has two years left so let’s see where this goes.

Parker Stewart transferred in last year but did not suit up, so I’m pinning him here. He came from sitting out a year after his father passed away. He last suited up at UT Martin in 2019-2020 and earned all OVC honors. He has ACC experience as well, as he went to UT Martin after transferring from Pitt. He appears to have two years left as well.

Michael Durr is kind of a wild card transferring from South Florida. At 7 feet tall, Durr brings in a large body that could potentially help replace Brunk’s departure. While he wasn’t particularly standoutish at South Florida, he’s big which doesn’t grow on trees and he managed to bring in 8 rebounds per game last season. He comes in with…you guessed it…two years of eligibility left.

Recruits

  • Tamar Bates (247 Ranking: 30th Nationally)
  • Logan Duncomb (247 Ranking: 72nd Nationally)

Bates and Duncomb are two nice pieces to bring in for the year. Bates is a highly desirable 6’4” guard and Duncomb is a 6’9” forward that have potential. From all the preseason talk, Bates could actually see some decent time and even work his way into a starting spot. Duncomb has been a little hurt, but he’s big so we’ll see where it goes. Overall, not bad. Let’s see what they can do.

The Returning Hoosiers

  • Rob Phinisee
  • Anthony Leal
  • Kristian Lander
  • Jordan Geronimo
  • Trayce Jackson-Davis
  • Race Thompson
  • Trey Galloway

Obviously, the key piece that returns is Trayce Jackson-Davis. TJD was going to go into the draft had Archie stayed or had Woodson not been hired. Now, Indiana has its All American candidate back and let’s hope his jumper has improved. The biggest problem with TJD is that he has not tried scoring outside of 5 feel consistently. Woodson sat him down and told him he needed to work on his jump shot on day 1, so let’s see how much improvement is there. TJD is hands down one of the best players in the conference.

Race Thompson pulled his name out of the transfer portal as well. While undersized for a 4 in the B1G, Race plays as hard as anyone I’ve seen. He’s tenacious, rebounds well, and does make good decisions. The big issue for Race is, as was for most the team last year, can you score outside of 5 feet? Allegedly Woodson wants Race to stretch the floor, so we will see what he can do.

I’m going to address Galloway and Leal together because they’re the same player, except Leal can’t guard his shadow and Galloway can on occasion. These two are Indiana boys through and through. They were two of the only Hoosiers who did not consult the transfer portal post Archie and that does say something about these men. On the basketball court though…I don’t love them. Leal shoots well but can’t defend. Galloway plays hard but looks petrified 80% of the time. One of these guys needs to complete their game because Indiana needs one of them to play in order to be successful.

Jordan Geronimo is a nice Victor Oladipo style project. Last year, he showed flashed of what he can be. Freak athlete. Can’t score though. Need to see improvement here.

Lander and Phinisee are the lone returning guards on the roster. Lander was a Freshman who reclassified ahead and came in last year, and at times boy did he look it. That said, over the season I thought he showed improvements up until the time Archie shelved him for whatever reason. He must show more improvements and hopefully competes for starting minutes at the one spot because I think he’s very talented.

Then there’s Rob Phinisee. Rob, Rob, Rob. A senior with 2 years of eligibility left due to COVID. Rob had the worst season of all the guards last year. He started hurt. Kept getting hurt. When he was healthy, he was a ghost of his former self. Turnovers. Bad shots. Couldn’t make shots. It was insane to see that level of regression in a player. I referred to him as “Regression Rob.” He went from “Big Shot Rob” to “God Dammit Rob” for much of the fanbase too. He’s a talented defender and a capable shooter. That’s been missing for two years at this point though. As the most experience Hoosier guard on the roster, he needs to do better this year or otherwise I expect to see him in the portal at the end of the year and probably playing very little should Bates or Lander develop as anticipated.

Expectations

My oh my. What are fair expectations for year 1 in the Mike Woodson era? Well, if you read my previous article on Mike Woodson, you know where I think expectations are. Are they immediate, no, but there is expectation of improvements this year. Not just, “win a couple more” expectations, but a few lofty expectations that I don’t find to be unreasonable given the talent on the roster.

1) Finish above .500 in the conference.

Indiana has not finished above .500 in the conference since 2016, and since 2009, has only finished above .500 3 times. This is not a rebuild, it’s a retooling. Indiana had a fair chance at multiple conference games they lost last year. You have an All-American big and capable guards. Being above .500 in the conference is not too much to ask. If things remain the same in the conference, that puts you in 6th place. Not bad for year 1.

2) Make an NCAA tournament with momentum.

All too often, Indiana limps into the post season. Losing the first game of the conference tournament usually. It’s time for better results. This team should make the NCAA tournament. That said, I also expect them to come in winning a few bore the tournament and bowing out in a semifinal game. Carry momentum in to the tournament and win a 7-10 game or 6-11. Making it to the round of 32 is not a major ask, but it may not be a fair expectation. Let’s say make it to the dance and be competitive.

3) Make this season fun.

Good lord, watching Archie teams play is a challenge. You could compare it to Virginia, but Virginia is actually good. I enjoy that aesthetic of basketball. A well performed rotation makes me all giddy inside. That’s significantly less fun if your team is either incapable of scoring, running shitty offenses, or looks like they simply don’t care. Last year, check, check, and fucking check. Instead, let’s actually compete in the B1G for a couple weeks before we nosedive. Let’s not lose to Northwestern at home. Have our players consistently become frustrated with coaching decisions. The reasonable expectation is for Mike Woodson to make this season fun for the fans and players. Full stop.

Schedule

Definitely ripped this off ESPN. Notably, non-conference is light, there’s a home and away with Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (I expect Wisconsin to be down). Hell, that should be 6-8 wins in those games.

Beautiful. That’s how you schedule non-con.
ESPN, but I took the screenshot....

Predictions

I kind of hate doing predictions for basketball. There’s 31 games in the season, and basketball is like baseball in the sense that anything can happen on any night and consistently does. So instead of giving a major prediction, I’ll give a best case, worst case scenario for the regular season barring off court issues or injuries.

Best Case: 24-7 (13-7 B1G)

This scenario means Mike Woodson is building in the right direction. Indiana probably spends some time ranked. I think that, even in the worst case scenario, Indiana is only going to drop at most 2 non-conference games. Best case, they walk into Syracuse and win and also beat Notre Dame in the final year of the crossroad classic. This record last year puts Indiana in 5th place which shouldn’t be a stretch if Indiana overachieves even slightly.

Worst Case: 18-13 (9-11 B1G)

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know a whole bunch about the B1G outside of Indiana in basketball. That said, I watched most of the games last year and Indiana should have been better than 7 wins. Age of the roster alone gives Indiana two more so I think there is improvement in the B1G win column regardless. This scenario just means that Indiana didn’t get the guard play it needed to truly compete just yet.

OTE “Writer” Opinions

BoilerUp89: 19-12 (10-10 B1G)

Kind of...: 19-12 (10-10 B1G)

Misdreavus79: 20-11 (11-9 B1G)

Mike Woodson Videos

Something that’s stood out to me in the Slack channel, Reddit, and other articles on here is that Mike Woodson is actually kind of beloved across the board. I wasn’t too aware of his existence until he was hired in. I’d heard the name but that was all. Looking into who he is, my God. This man is a treasure and must be cherished. Anyone who puts up with JR Smith deserves a lifetime achievement award…except Lebron. He gets a dunce hat. In the spirit of team building, here are some great Mike Woodson videos for your enjoyment. Special thanks to Thump for screencapping the “JR GOD DAMN IT” video too! Go Hoosiers!