The Hoosiers are hosting the Kennesaw State (GA) Owls on Friday and that means the Hoosier Faithful may be subjected to even more time with the lingering questions regarding the big moments. Because by all measure, I would hope to see this upcoming bout go about the way the Elon matchup went.
In that matchup the Hoosiers were able to utilize the deeper portions of our roster to see a ton of different on court combinations. The Hoosiers were able to give very meaningful minutes to players like CJ Gunn, who may have their time to step up for the Indiana program come before many of the fans had anticipated. With Xavier’s return shaded from most of us, any player even point guard adjacent needs to put their ball handling and distribution on display so that Mike Woodson and the Hoosier coaching staff can figure out whatever chemistry funk (for lack of a better term) has plagued them in the biggest moments, and do so while having to deal with rotation shifting injuries.
All that being said, Jalen is still the point guard and will be asked to do even more now that Xavier is having surgery on his broken foot. And I fully expect him to continue his stellar play into the game against the owls. Following an impressive 17 points, 7 assists, Jalen looks to build some momentum for himself prior to the Big Ten really getting into it. I want his confidence to begin to snowball. Fully confident in his ability to go out and perform against the Kennesaw State Owls.
I hope Trayce Jackson-Davis is in the game in this one. Many fans have seemingly turned on our great leader, before the Big Ten’s even RRRRREEEAAALLLYYY started. I refuse to do so. Because Trayce has all the skills to dominate any game he’s in. I don’t know what mentality shift Mike Woodson may be able to foster in him to bring the tenacity and attitude necessary to bring it all together in the biggest moments, but it must be done. If Trayce is in this game, I wouldn’t expect anything other than dominance in the paint over the Kennesaw State Owls. He dominates this competition in Assembly Hall, and I wouldn’t expect the size of Kennesaw to be too big an issue. excited to see if he can find a way to bring a fresh-legged and ready-to-go demeanor into 2023.
That being said, with it without Trayce, I would hope to see interior dominance nonetheless. In Trayce’s absence Race has been able to put up some very impressive stat lines. There is only one ball, so when he’s on the court the offense is largely running through Trayce. But Race has been able to make up for the contributions lost with Trayce’s absence against these lesser non-conference opponents, and do so reliably. He gets his moments to shine in these games and I would expect nothing less against Kennesaw State.
If Trayce is absent from this game, I am also excited to see Malik get the starting nod again. These two games may be just what the doctor ordered for Malik and his game. He’s seen both extremes of the talent he will be going up against. It may not be much, but I think him getting a better grasp on the competition that teams at this level are capable of at times could go along way in him tailoring his game to compete at the highest levels and being able to make the adjustments necessary to make the contributions my personally-biased mind thinks he is capable of, even in the bigger games to come. He now knows that not all teams are created equal up here, hopefully he can utilize games like these to better understand how he can adjust on the fly to take advantage of what a defense is throwing at him. Also, beating up on some smaller competition could help him bolster his confidence before we get back to bare knuckle brawling our Big Ten counterparts game in and game out.
In regards to Logan Duncomb and Kaleb Banks, give them all the minutes in this one. I’m hoping that the Hoosier fans get to see just as much of these two as we had in the Elon matchup. Both of these guys have plenty to like about their game and it’s awesome to see guys taking the floor and absolutely cherishing their time on it. As pained as the Kansas game had left me, the performance of our supporting squad against Elon should give Hoosiers much to appreciate. The energy these guys are bringing into the minutes they are given, along with CJ Gunn, is refreshing. In a season where I am personally looking for anything to light the powder keg that is the talent on this team, I will take the sparks anywhere I can get them.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t imagine the Indiana Hoosiers to answer any of the questions left unanswered following the Elon game. I just hope that Mike Woodson can take full advantage of utilizing the opportunity against Kennesaw State to continue to seek out what will work to motivate this team and get them playing to the level that their skills warrant. That looks to be a tall task that Mike Woodson has been delivered. But, Mike had yet to fail me on his journey of getting Indiana trending in the right direction, so I have to believe he can figure out how to get this engine running and firing on all cylinders.
Thank you all for taking the time to read these thoughts and opinions of a Hoosier fan. If you want to give me a listen, keep a look out for a new episode of the Often Daunted podcast, available the morning following the Kennesaw State game. Hope you and yours are having a great holiday, and take it easy Hoosier fans.
LUX ET VERITAS!