New Year, New Attitude Needed. This team still has the talent to take 2023 by storm. (Indiana Hoosiers Basketball)

So here we are Hoosier fans, 2023 is upon us and the Indiana Hoosiers are currently sitting at 10-3 overall, 1-1 in Big Ten play. While we have seen the tools many fans have thought would be on full display throughout a dominant season, Indiana just hasn’t seemed to get their game going for a full 40 minutes. With Big Ten play here on out until Tournament time, each and every game will be a test. A test in which Indiana will have to utilize all of these talents to their fullest. Whether that means a team mentality shift, a shakeup in the rotation or starting lineup, whatever it may be. It’s time for Mike Woodson and company to recalibrate this squad and find the combinations necessary to come out with an intensity to dwarf that which we’ve shown up with in big games this season. With as much talent and as many skill sets as the Indiana Hoosier’s roster has, it’s about time it finds its footing.

I’m still at ease with Mike at the helm.

Coach Mike Woodson’s most glaring and pointed to inadequacy so far in his tenure has been the ability to adapt and make the adjustments necessary to compete and utilize the opportunities an opposition presents the Hoosiers with. While one could argue that his ability displayed to make the adjustments could leave fans wanting more, I think the Kennesaw State game was a great one for our coaching staff to take into a break before the grueling Big Ten season really gets going. In that game, we saw Malik Reneau struggle to get anything going down low against the Owls. In response, Mike Woodson decided to go small and run with the Owls. Allowing the Hoosiers to find the open shots necessary to finally pull away from Kennesaw down the stretch. While it is a sample size of one game, I hope this long time to reflect on it has given this coaching staff some confidence in their adjustments and some comfort in making them.

Apart from that, the Indiana coaching staff’s most glaring weakness has been its inability to inspire much confidence or motivation in the team come the time to perform on the biggest stages. I have to believe that something can be done by those up top to light the spark that sets off the powder keg that is all of Indiana’s talent. If this coaching staff is able to inspire our guys to get up and deliver in the largest moments, this team’s potential is limitless. We have got the talent, just need to find an intensity or attitude.

Trayce Jackson-Davis has had some truly superb performances already this season. His triple double against the Nebraska Cornhuskers solidified his spot even more as an Indiana great. One of three Hoosiers to deliver a triple double, Trayce truly finds himself in rare territory. When Trayce is firing on all cylinders he’s going to get his buckets all day, even more so, he’s going to get his teammates buckets all day. All of that being said, the lack of attitude and intensity does fall a bit on the shoulders of our great and extremely gifted All-American.

At this stopping gap in the season, teams are able to take a breath and address a few things prior to getting back into conference play with the new year. While it may leave many upset to hear, no one truly needs this time more than Trayce Jackson-Davis. Whether it is his back or just his mentality at this point in the season, Trayce needs to find out how he is going to come out and be the leader this team needs in 2023. For better or worse, he and the Indiana fanbase have positioned Trayce Jackson-Davis as the “face of the franchise” (for lack of a better term). With that role comes a responsibility to set the tone of a program. With that role comes a necessity to bring an emotion that can spill onto the court not only in your game, but in the game of teammates feeding off of you. While Trayce has brought a lot this season, I truly believe he needs to find this if Indiana is to navigate the treacherous waters of the Big Ten in one piece. It isn’t always about setting the tempo at which the game is being played, sometimes it’s just providing the energy necessary to ignite a teammate to go off on a tear of scoring. Confidence is contagious, and Trayce Jackson-Davis absolutely needs to be Indiana’s patient zero.

Need the evolution of the All-American to come to fruition.

Unfortunately for Xavier Johnson his season has come to an end. While those on the outside looking in may see this as a contention threatening loss for the Indiana Hoosiers, those familiar with the team should feel that this is not the nail in the Hoosiers’ coffin this season. Xavier does a lot of shouldering the load whenever he is on the court, for better or worse, and I love him for it. With him down though, this frees up some minutes for our hottest hand, Tamar, to come in and subsidize. With Trey improving his ball handling abilities, and Jalen’s game coming more and more to frutition, while Xavier is surely missed on the court, I have to believe Indiana will be alright without him moving forward. Look for this terrible accident for Xavier to turn into opportunities for others. That being said, Indiana’s better with X on the team. Hope he gets healthy and all is well for him following this set back.

With Xavier sidelined, nobody will be asked to step up more than the highly touted freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino. Game in and game out has shown his growing comfort on the collegiate court. With the brutal nature of the Big Ten ahead of us, he is going to have to shoulder massive minutes for us moving forward. Even though he was contributing substantially with Xavier on the floor, now as the Hoosiers truest ball handler, it is his time, albeit possibly a tall task, to step up and run this offense to its full potential. Jalen’s ability to distribute from the cut and create his own shots has been seen already this season. If his back can serve him well, I see no reason Jalen Hood-Schifino can’t lead a dominant Indiana backcourt come tournament time. The Bill of Goods we were sold on Jalen has held true so far, only problem is for Banner 6 we may need him to find a way to be even more than that.

Miller Kopp has stepped up and has begun delivering quite the veteran presence. He is making the shots we had asked him to all last season, and he is making them reliably. On top of improved shooting Miller has brought a new ability to lead. His veteran presence is so valuable, especially in games that Xavier Johnson and Trayce Jackson-Davis have been out of. He’s exuding a calm, cold, and calculated demeanor on the court, and I must say it looks good on him. Whatever adjustments he has made to find his shooting of old, they are certainly paying off. I fully expect Miller to continue to find the bucket in the year 2023. We will need any shooting we can get and I think Miller, along with Tamar, will need to lead the way in that category.

Speaking of Tamar Bates, he has only come out and surpassed any expectation that a Hoosier fan had any business asking of him. An absolute bright spot of our season has been the development in Tamar’s game and the newfound reliability that he has found this season. Not to say he wasn’t reliable at times before, Tamar has just taken his game to another level and can now contribute to Indiana’s production night in and night out. While I loved having him come off the bench to start the season, Tamar has only strengthened his case to be in the starting rotation in each shift he’s gotten. At some point you have to ask yourself if having the best offensive producer on the bench to start the game is the right idea. Especially considering the starts Indiana has suffered at times this season, maybe his production from the jump is just the right answer.

Race Thompson is used to bruising up larger bodies on the regular playing in the Big Ten. While he is able to utilize his muscle to get boards over larger defenders at times, Race has yet to really look to be the bully on the rare opportunities he does have to utilize size mismatches. The most glaring opportunities being in that Kennesaw State matchup (possibly recency bias). Race appeared to be presented the opportunity to take advantage of rather drastic size mismatches and never looked to impose his will against an opponent. It stood out to me because I know Race is capable of taking it to an opponent. Especially ones the size of which Kennesaw was throwing at him. In the year 2023, the competition is just going to get fiercer, I would love to see Race bring some ferocity to meet it. He has all the talent to be a feared name in the Big Ten. We’ve seen him produce in Trayce’s absence from time to time. If Race can tap into that game in and game out, the best has yet to come for Race Thompson.

Our rotation has shown that each player has brought an additional tool in their bag of tricks this season. No better example may be Trey Galloway and his accuracy from deep. After sporting Indiana’s worst percentage beyond the arc last season, Trey spent the off-season reworking his shot for a more repeatable, uniform, and higher release. It has helped this Indiana backcourt in finding the range that had eluded these Hoosiers all last season. Trey’s improved ball-handling has subsidized much of the possession responsibilities left in the air with Xavier’s injury. We all thought Trey would have to contribute this season, but not to the extend he may be asked to now. With the development in his game and his improved shooting production (also that silky smooth fake lob shot), I think Trey is well suited to step up for the Hoosiers. He is a pest on the defensive perimeter and a monster in the transition game, that’s always been the case and the Hoosiers will need that in spades now that Big Ten play is starting up. Now often a starting fixture of this squad, I’m ready for Trey to turn a corner here in 2023.

Jordan Geronimo started this season with an incredible intensity. He showed that ball handling was a focus of his off-season as he displayed out of the gate a willingness to move with the ball that was absent in his game prior to this year. Jordan has showed an explosiveness around the rim and I believe this improved ball-handling to be a step towards Jordan Geronimo getting his game further towards the perimeter. Not knowing whether Jordan is a true 3 or 4, by developing a perimeter game Jordan stands to be a truly special player. We have seen glimpses in his season that this can come. If given the minutes necessary, I fully expect Jordan to continue his trend of developing into a more complete player in the year 2023. He will be essential to the fortunes of this team in years to follow, I’m hoping to see him contribute more and more as we get closer to March. Coming off of a few of his less impressive performances and a couple of games out with a finger injury, I hope this holiday break gives him what he needs to refuel and come out with that intensity that let’s him put-back jam the ball with reckless abandon. It’s there, again just a case of finding it consistently.

Malik Reneau started his Indiana career ablaze. His growing pains have come fiercely here in the last month. His technical prowess and game IQ speak for themselves. For Malik it is a matter of adjusting to the stresses that come with playing top level collegiate ball each and every day. As highly touted as he was, these growing pains were to be expected. While these last few games by our young star have been disappointing, I have to think he is due to bounce back and find his footing here in 2023. He has all the talent in the world, it will find its true north.

As for the support currently, CJ Gunn and Logan Duncomb have taken advantage of their minutes to provide the Hoosiers with some energy on the court. As we get into the gauntlet of conference play, I don’t believe they should be tasked with many more minutes moving forward. That being said I think either of these guys could find a way into some. Especially in the case of CJ Gunn. With no Xavier, any back court player than can prove themselves will get some opportunity on the floor.

While the Hoosier defense has left a bit to be desired, they are still playing very competent defense. Indiana has not allowed many teams to score at the rim consistently. Defense is still the staple of this squad, it just so happens that teams may be getting more possessions. Indiana has looked to run more this season than in years prior, more possessions means more shots, more shots means more points, the Indiana defense is still to be feared. While Indiana fans may still know this, I would like to see Trayce, Race, and the other Indiana leaders make this a point of emphasis. Emotion on the defensive end spills into your team on the offensive end, maybe committing back to the defensive identity of this team can fuel enough emotion to get the Hoosiers out of these big game yips in energy.

The Hoosiers have all the skill, time to find the next gear. Here’s hoping Trayce can lead the way.

This program is still moving in the right direction here on the Eve of the year 2023. There is still so much that this team has to put on tape. I find myself still so optimistic for what the Indiana Hoosiers are going to be able to do come March. I’m still fully on board with the Hoosiers still taking the Big Ten this season. No reason the talent on this team can not do that. It will just have to take a waking of whatever intensity can tends to lay dormant in this team under the brightest lights. I believe Mike Woodson and company to have what it takes.

Thank you for taking the time to read these short thoughts of a Hoosier fanboy. I’m posting this along with a new episode of the Often Daunted podcast. Breaking down how this season has gone so far and a few other things about the team. Allotted a few mid season awards in this one. Really having fun making each episode. So if you like what you read and would like to give me a listen check out OFTEN DAUNTED wherever you get your podcasts.

LUX ET VERITAS!

-Burke

Disclaimer: these are the words of a Hoosier fan. No insider voice here. Just airing of opinions.

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