Trayce Jackson-Davis looks fully prepared to play the villain in Minnesota (Indiana pregame thoughts)

As the 4-4 Indiana Hoosiers are riding high, playing their most competitive ball of the season at this point. Led by Trayce Jackson-Davis and his historic performances the Hoosiers have rebuilt their priorities and reestablished a smash mouth identity. It all appears to be coming together as the Hoosiers head to Minnesota to face the 1-7 Golden Gophers. A streaking Indiana can’t afford to come out flat in this one and hope to remain competitive at the end.

The Golden Gophers run a backcourt offense. When they were able to beat Ohio State, they dictated the tempo of the game. Look for Minnesota to try to slow down this game. Peeking into a bit of Minnesota coverage, it appears that Gopher fans consistently point to Minnesota’s inability to carry momentum they come out with deep into games. The Gophers seem to run their offense through a controlled game, often times running the offense through their big man occupying the top of the key. They will look to utilize a backcourt style to get shooters open, running plays hoping to catch the Hoosiers sleeping on the perimeter. Forward Dawson Garcia leads the way for the Gophers with 14.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds. Ta’Lon Cooper leads the Gophers in assists with 5.7. While they have been struggling this season, no team in this conference is going to just give you the win.

While the Golden Gophers have been struggling, I don’t expect the Indiana Hoosier defense to carry too much empathy into this one. This Indiana team is playing its most smash mouth defense yet and I’m expecting to see more of it here. With Trayce Jackson-Davis getting 5 blocks in the last game and 3 in the game prior, I fully expect Indiana to go to Minnesota with the edge they’ve carried into the last 3 bouts. While a hostile environment would have given me reason for concern prior to the mentality shift in the program, that just is no longer the case.

Trayce is embracing a villain role more and more, he’s beginning to make the unconscious translation that all great champions make. The filter in his head that tells the brain the jeers of your enemy are to be relished and proud of has been turned on. That’s the mentality any great competitor needs, and Trayce has started to show he’s got it. He’s beginning to show a growing appreciation in silencing an opposing crowd as opposed to just pumping up his own. “Who’s the bad guy” *Tony Montana voice*, it’s TJD.

Trayce is doing everything for the Hoosiers right now… I mean eeevvveerrrryyyttthhhhiiiinnnnggggg. Trayce Jackson-Davis is playing the best ball of his career, and looks to be bringing an attitude that doesn’t point to him slowing down anytime soon. Taking home the title of national player of the week, Trayce has posted an incredible tear of performances in the Hoosiers recent run. In the Michigan State game, Trayce tied the current record for blocks by a Hoosier. He is now tied with Jeff Newton with 227. 35 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in a hostile He also became the 6th Hoosier to log 40 career double-doubles. Long story short, if your not paying attention to Hoosier history as it’s happening, what are you doing?

Pretty awesome stat right there.

Minnesota finds themselves in the basement of the Big Ten. That being said, Trayce’s reign of dominance has to continue here. No away Big Ten wins come easy. Remember, this is the conference with 1 team ranked, yet with 9 other teams from it still filling out the bracketology field.

Quick side tangent on that, the fact that Purdue is ranked number one then the next Big Ten team is unranked should be enough to bring each AP voter to trial. I get that in the case of the Big Ten, if you ranked one of the next teams (aka us), you may need to rank the 3 others right on par with record-wise with us right now. But come on, that is some American Athletic conference BS, that is some Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference BS, this is the Big Ten. Get real.

Back to away Big Ten wins. None of them come easy. With Trayce playing the way he currently is, I imagine they have to come a little easier. Every games a battle and I would never expect the Hoosiers to overlook a Big Ten opponent, but if Trayce is in this form there’s no stopping him. When he’s able to facilitate the offense, distributing from the post, while now threatening to drag two opponents onto a poster at any moment, Indiana’s offense is operating at its finest. Here’s hoping we get to see more of that now.

Jalen Hood-Schifino had a poor shooting night when Sparty came to town. I can’t imagine he’d have another day of shooting like that and expect him to bounce back with a more characteristic performance in this game. While it was disheartening to see Jalen’s struggles on the day, it was such a boon to see the response of the Hoosier squad when more production was needed.

Because, without his lack of shooting on the day, the opportunity to step up and answer the ever-unanswered question of “who will step up?” may not have presented itself. Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates each delivered 17 points in the MSU game. While 17 won’t be needed from both of these guys when Jalen’s sinking his shots, it’s incredible to know that we have these guys that can deliver these performances. A persistent question this season has been “Who’s going to be the third producer?” Well, what happens when your second guy isn’t producing? Luckily we now have multiple guys ready to step up to the occasion.

It isn’t just Trey’s incredibly improved shooting, Tamar finding his opportunities on the perimeter and taking full advantage of them, or Jordan Geronimo providing crucial energy and momentum shifting highlights, Indiana is now finding all the necessary support to compete and push through the adversity that comes with Big Ten basketball.

Malik Reneau has displayed an incredible stretch of growth as his presence grows larger and larger each minute he’s being given. The Malik of December would not have been able to subsidize the minutes needed when Jordan went out to foul trouble. Here’s hoping Hoosier fans get to see this young star keep snowballing this confidence into the rest of the season.

This season has been an absolute Rollercoaster ride. After being battered with injury, left reeling following lifeless performances, the Hoosiers are now playing like the nastiest collection of dogs in the country. Yeah that may be hyperbole, but I haven’t seen a Hoosier squad this mean in quite some time. I’m going to appreciate it for all I possibly can. With plenty of basketball left to build a resume for a decent seeding, the Hoosiers seem to be only getting better. A team getting better with more and more key players returning from injury, that’s something to be feared. I fully expect a red hot, smash-your-teeth-in Indiana squad to take it to Minnesota.

Thank you for taking the time to read these short thoughts of a Hoosier fan, running this site to pass the time in between Hoosier tips. If you like my scatterbrained writing and would like to listen to my equally scatterbrained podcast, give the Often Daunted podcast a listen. Available wherever you get yourself.

Have a great day Hoosier fans. Down with the Gophers!

LUX ET VERITAS

-Burke

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