*This part of the article was written on March 10th, 2022 with 2:30 left to go in the first half of the Indiana-Michigan Big Ten Tournament Game.
It’s over. Thank fucking God.
Honestly, I thought it might go way. I figured Indiana would roll through the non-conference games. They did. They went 9-1 through a relatively weak schedule, losing only to a terrible Syracuse squad on the road in double overtime.
The conference schedule? Well it was not as kind. It started off with a shaky win against a short handed at the time Nebraska squad in the Hall, followed by a blown 20 point lead against future conference co-champion Wisconsin and a loss at Penn State. Indiana would dink and dunk around until the February blues hit and Indiana went from 7-4 to 7-9 in conference play thanks to a 5 game losing streak. The Hoosiers had a chance to right the ship and won back to back game to pull to 9-9, but folded late against Rutgers and Purdue to lose and fall to 9-11 for the year. This secured a 6th straight losing conference schedule for the once proud Hoosiers.
Before diving right into the autopsy, let me check in with what I said the Hoosiers would do this year.
My Preseason Predictions (From the Preseason Piece)
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.
Dissecting my Preseason Predictions
Holy shit I’m good. This was certainly the worst case scenario for Mike Woodson. The only thing that is a little off is that I never predicted that Trayce Jackson Davis would turn out to not be as good as we thought he was. Guard play hampered the Hoosiers all year even with Xavier Johnson really showing improvement. Indiana’s experience bought them 2 more games, but just wasn’t enough to push Indiana into a winning situation. Overall, I’m not certain what kind of mental gymnastics it takes to feel good with this season, but I don’t think I want to talk to people who feel this was a good year. It wasn’t by literally every metric.
Problems in the Hall
Indiana, how the mighty have fallen. It honestly astounds me that Indiana has been able to construct a roster so poor at shooting in a state so known for how well its kids shoot the ball. That is certainly the biggest problem that faced Indiana this year. They simply did not have a guy that could reliably make a 3 all year. Hell, most of the time nobody could reliably make a shot period and that includes the so called star of the team. Let’s break this down by position groups, shall we?
Guards – Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp sometimes, Trey Galloway sometimes, Rob Phinisee, Tamar Bates, Kristian Lander, Anthony Leal
This group is in the running for the worst group in the B1G. Out of all these guys, there’s not 1 person who can consistently get and hit a shot. Let’s start with the winners of the year, Trey and Xavier. Xavier started the season out on the shitlist and has worked himself off of it in spectacular fashion. He plays so hard, brings such a tough edge to him, and janky shot and all has found a way to score consistently since the Penn State game. Without Xavier, Indiana wins 6 or 7 games this conference season. Trey missed a good portion of the season thanks to injuries, but when he’s healthy he’s been a blessing.
Now lets get to the biggest disappointments: Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp, and Rob Phinisee. Miller Kopp has been the middle worst player out of these three. What Miller Kopp has amounted to this year is a really good 4th pick in a pick-up game. Someone who won’t hurt you but probably won’t help you. That’s fine if that’s what he’s been sold as, but the hype train said he’s a scorer and a shooter. He can shoot the ball, but he rarely does. He rebounds okay and has good size, but really isn’t much of a defensive factor. Simply put: it’s not good enough for a winning program.
The best of these three disappointments has been Rob Phinisee. Rob Phinisee is to Indiana basketball what Mike Penix was to Indiana football…minus the accolades. Rob has been injured for most of his career it feels like. Just when he started to break out of his shell this year, he got hurt. It sucks for someone this team could have used this year, but it’s over now and all you can be left with is a feeling of disappointment.
The worst offender on this list is Parker Stewart. Parker needs to hit the transfer portal. He’s not a Big Ten guard. He can’t defend, takes bad shots, and makes bad decisions. Really didn’t do anything for large stretches of the season. Get him out of Bloomington ASAP.
The others? Leal still need physical development, Lander has turnover problems he needs to solve, and Tamar just needs to get better. I feel worse for Tamar as his season got interrupted by the death of a grandparent and he never really got back to rolling again. Next year should be a good year for him.
Bigs – Race Thompson, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Michael Durr, Jordan Geronimo
I can literally not say enough good about Race Thompson. I truly hope he stays his last year in Bloomington but I wouldn’t blame him for chasing greener pastures. He’s been the glue of this team all year and has masked a ton of flaws with the roster. I have nothing negative to say about him, including the 3 point shooting. I think he should shoot more personally.
Michael Durr was a ghost this year. He didn’t play for large portions but came through in the Purdue game so I guess he gets a pass. I get a hint of “this guy has personal issues” from the way Woody has handled him this season actually, but that’s been relatively unproven.
Trayce? Man. It looked so promising, especially in November. Let me say this so that nobody has any doubt how I feel about Trayce as a player: Until Trayce can develop some sort of scoring game outside of 10 feet, any Indiana team with him as the number 1 option will fail to win. You saw it against Illinois. You saw it against Michigan. You saw it against anyone who had a large big man. All they did was pack the paint and let Trayce drive in and throw up some sort of runner. That defense was successful more than it wasn’t. In today’s game, a big man cannot be a post only player. You must develop a 10-15 foot jumper. He doesn’t have one and until he does, the best he can be on offense is a damn good second option/slasher.
Much like Mike Woodson, I actually forgot about Jordan Geronimo when writing this. Geronimo remains an enigma, albeit one that is improving. He’ll be a very useful piece his senior year.
Buffkomodo stops, looks up at the TV and notices that the once 17 point Michigan lead is down to 8. He pauses writing and watches the remaining minutes ticket by. Indiana wins. He watches the handshake line for slaps, and sits in silence. He checks the ESPN last four in, curbs his emotions, and finishes his day.
Buff puts on the Indiana-Illinois game the next day. With some analysts predicting Indiana has made the tournament with their win over a middling Michigan team, Buff feels this is a must win for the Hoosiers. He does not feel good that Kofi made Trayce his plaything last game and is not hopeful for a win though. He watches intently and as the game goes back and forth, begins to sweat. Checking the ESPN first four out on repeat, he slowly begins to feel Indiana might just make the tournament if the Hoosiers can get a bounce to go their way.
Buff watches the final seconds. Holy shit, Trayce Jackson Davis hit 2 free throws to send us up one. What is this? HOLY SHIT Trent Frazier turns it over with 11 seconds left!!!! We could actually pull this off! Fucking Miller Kopp chokes the front end of a one-and-one… we deserv…HOLY SHIT ANDRE CURBELO MISSES A LAYUP WITH NO TIME ON THE CLOCK. WE’RE GOING DANCING BABY!!!!!!!!!
The following was written on April 6th
What a difference a week makes, right? I went through and reread some of my harsh words about the Indiana Hoosier basketball team. You know what? I’m not wrong. I’m just a dick.
That’s really how I feel about the season now. It’s just a mission accomplished season, for whatever that’s worth. Indiana truly didn’t have the shooting talent to win a B1G regular season title, but they were as dangerous as anyone and could have very easily won the B1G tournament had Jordan Bohannon just went onto the real world.
The “what ifs” will perhaps be the biggest gripe with this season. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Indiana shoulda been able to add 5 wins to their B1G regular season total, setting them at 14-6. That coulda set them up nice for a decent, but not great matchup in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament. That woulda been the absolute program building season Mike Woodson needed to announce to the B1G that Indiana is prepared to reassert itself into the upper echelon of B1G basketball.
Alas, we live in reality. The reality is that Mike Woodson took a shot with a roster that was half baked and unproven and honestly kinda won. He snapped the losing streak to Purdue and damn near swept the series this year. He snapped Indiana’s drought from the B1G tournament semi-finals. He also led the team to snap the 6 year NCAA tournament drought and actually won a real, NCAA tournament affiliated game. That is not nothing. It’s also not as good as it could have been.
Archie Miller deserves a fair bit of blame for this roster as well. I’ve never seen a roster so devoid of shooting talent, shot getting talent, or really any scoring ability outside of a dunk in my life. To be fair, the substituting of Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp for Al Durham and Armaan Franklin seemed to be pretty okay on paper. Miller actually brought in Stewart. Boy did that not pan out at all. TJD looks scared to loft a shot in from outside 10 feet. Guards go into holes. Wide open shots are bricked time after time after time.
The autopsy of this Indiana Hoosier team was softened because of one weekend. One weekend where the Indiana Hoosiers actually electrified a fanbase again. It felt like the Purdue game in January. People were generally excited about the program. Never mind that if you just handle business on your home court against Rutgers or don’t have to suspend half your team against Northwestern that perhaps you’re not fretting until the end.
This sudden build up of excitement seems to be built upon a house of cards though. It started to topple before the tournament is even over with the firing of Dane Fife, the departure of 4 Hoosiers, Thad Matta leaving, and the arrest of Xavier Johnson. I’ve seen too many in the fanbase ask for Fife over Woodson or say that Woodson has lost control or doesn’t know what he’s doing. Ahhh…back to normal.
So what do we do now? Well…we wait. We wait as see what happens. It’s transfer portal season. There’s recruiting to finish. Then it’s onto summer workouts and gossip. Then football season and God knows what’s gonna happen there.
In August, I wrote a piece about how Mike Woodson’s success will be determined at Indiana. Then, I wasn’t optimistic at all that the Woodson experiment would work out. I truly thought this season would be a bitter disappointment…and it almost was. If there’s anything to reflect on 5 years from now, it may very well be that the 2022 B1G tournament saved Indiana basketball. It jolted the Hoosiers awake after a few years of sleeping through seasons. It turned me from a pessimist into a
sadist fascist ist word that implies I have a little optimism now. Mind you I don’t think we’re hanging banners next year or anything, but I have some faith things will improve. What a season it was, and I actually have some excitement for next year.