Everyone second favorite Big Ten team in the state of Indiana - the Indiana Hoosiers - were the almost the unanimous preseason pick for winning the conference. A month into the season, do they still look like the team to beat?
8-3 (1-1 in B1G play) - Torvik rankings as of Monday evening (Indiana is #27)
Wins: 24 Xavier (A), 31 North Carolina (H), 99 Nebraska (H), 278 Morehead St. (H), 309 Miami-OH (semi-home), 317 Jackson State (H), 334 Little Rock (H), 350 Bethune Cookman (H)
Losses: 5 Kansas (A), 7 Arizona (N), 26 Rutgers (A)
There isn’t anything wrong with Indiana’s resume, but its not the type of non-conference resume that gets you a 1 seed either. The win at Xavier is nice feather in their cap (although if Sean Miller was paying attention and put Souley Boum on Miller Kopp instead of Xavier Johnson once he had three fouls, I think Xavier pulls that out). The win over North Carolina should be a solid resume win. It’s just that after those two, it’s quad 4 wins as far as the eye can see. Well and Nebraska, but that’s a conference game.
I wasn’t expecting Indiana to beat Arizona or Kansas, but I was expecting them to keep it close. Between those blowout losses and a 15-point loss at Rutgers, Indiana has looked more like just another tournament team than a national contender. Anyone can lose to Arizona, Kansas, or at Rutgers. It’s losing all three games by 14+ that’s the issue.
Things I’ve Liked
Trayce Jackson-Davis is a tremendous basketball player. He has outstanding footwork around the rim, an variety of low post moves, rebounds extremely well, and contests shots on defense. He is not a guy who can shoot from 10’ out and he’s not 6’10”, but he’s still a really good basketball player who will win a lot of games for Indiana this year.
The Hoosiers senior class of TJD (although I guess TJD can technically return again), Kopp, Thompson, and Johnson have been very good this year. Kopp and Thompson have improved their shooting and defense while TJD and Johnson have continued to perform at the high rate we are accustomed to.
The team defense has been very good against non-elite offenses. They even held North Carolina to 65 points. Other than Kansas, Arizona, and Xavier (three elite top 15 offenses), Indiana has held all opponents to 65 points max. And Kansas needed those 23 turnovers to get there.
Things I Haven’t Liked
Getting blown out by Arizona and Kansas. Okay, so I - BoilerUp89 - did like this. It warmed my cold robot heart. But its a bad look for the conference and combined with some other conference struggles the past two weeks it will all likely cost the conference a bid and some seed lines come March.
Rebounding has been very average which is disappointing for a team that has two post players on the court at most times. Indiana can’t be giving up offense rebounds to the other team on 28.6% of their defensive rebounding opportunities. Indiana has the bodies to rebound at an elite level - they need to put in the effort.
Outside shooting has been improved from last season (up to 36% from three this year), but outside of Miller Kopp nobody has consistently been reliable. Someone needs to step up and become a reliable option when teams double the post because Kopp is going to be smothered by opposing defenses that read the scouting report.
Xavier Johnson hurt his foot in the Kansas game. He’s supposedly day-to-day.
Trey Galloway tweaked his knee at Xavier and missed three games against cupcakes as a precaution but has now been back five games and looked fine.
Schedule and What’s Left
Indiana played four P6 games this non-conference season and split the foursome. After that they played nobody. They did not participate in a real multiple team event - they hosted their own with Miami (OH), Jackson State, and Little Rock. I’m not sure playing 7 games against teams ranked below 250 is the best method to prep a senior-laden team for the grind of Big Ten play, but this non-conference schedule has actually been an improvement upon last year.
Out of the likely Big Ten contenders, Indiana drew the toughest schedule. They have double plays against Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan, Rutgers, and Northwestern. The only really tough road trips they missed out on are Ohio State and Wisconsin. I don’t see a particularly difficult or easy stretch of Big Ten play. It’s just consistently challenging game after game.
BoilerUp89’s Final Thoughts
The Hoosiers are one of the surest things to a NCAA tournament team in the conference. They have a very high floor, no bad losses, and two quality wins that will last on the resume. Barring extreme injury issues or locker room fallout, it’s difficult to imagine the Hoosiers completely failing apart.
Despite the loss to Rutgers, Indiana absolutely can contend for the Big Ten regular season title. I still think they end up 2nd or 3rd because of that schedule, but count them out at your own peril.
The issue for Indiana is that their tournament ceiling doesn’t look too high and this offseason many pundits and fans were expecting that to be otherwise. Right now, it doesn’t look like Indiana can compete with the top 15 or so teams in the country on a neutral floor. Which - neither can most of the rest of the Big Ten this year - but its really difficult to make it past the Sweet 16 if that’s case.
This is only year 2 for Mike Woodson and he is still getting “his guys” into the program. But Hoosier fans will need to be patient and by the time Woodson has the program running at his ceiling he’s going to be in his upper 60s.
Other Expert Opinions
MaximumSam: Coming into the season, Indiana was trendy pick, though it was mostly by default. They had lots of returning pieces and other teams didn’t. We were pretty skeptical that Indiana would actually be really good, though through the first seven games they were as advertised. Three blowout losses later, they look like another good team in the litter box of good teams in the B1G. Still, having guys who have been through the grind before is a plus. Let’s see if they can pull out a few conference wins just on grit.
Indiana will finish _____ in the Big Ten
This poll is closed
playing on Thursday in the BTT
The Hoosiers can still be national contenders this year
This poll is closed
True, BU89 hates Indiana and won’t talk about the truth