Year one of the Mike Woodson era is in the books, and it was a season replete with highs and lows.
Far too long losing streaks to Purdue, Michigan and Illinois were snapped, while another February funk nearly ruined a once promising campaign. The suspension of five players for a league game was nearly what kept IU out of the NCAA Tournament, before an impressive Big Ten Tournament saved the season.
If job one was to get Indiana back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, mark Woodson’s start to his tenure as a success. But 14 losses including 11 in regular season conference play leaves IU fans wanting for more.
Let’s take a look back at what went right and what went wrong with an end of season Report Card.
If there is one way to describe Indiana’s offense in 2021-22, it was a lack of versatility, both in terms of individual skillsets, and a fairly vanilla scheme.
Indiana’s roster limitations made the Hoosiers relatively easy to defend. Trayce Jackson-Davis wasn’t a threat beyond 10 feet, and much more challenging to stop going left than right. Race Thompson wasn’t a threat outside the paint for most of the season. Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart were only threats from three, and Kopp only in catch-and-shoot scenarios. Xavier Johnson was only a 3-point threat when stationary and given space. The players on the bench also had incomplete games.
And Indiana’s offensive scheme itself wasn’t very dynamic either. Woodson wanted to play a more spaced system with four shooters on the court surrounding Jackson-Davis, but he didn’t have the personnel to get that done and instead reverted to an inside-out, two big man “buddy ball” system that looked similar to the Archie Miller era. The result was a lot of three players standing around while Johnson tried to get loose via ball screens. While that approach could work with more dynamic wings and big men, defenses stuck to Kopp and Stewart and weren’t concerned with pick-and-pops, leaving Johnson to create on his own. Johnson’s late season emergence bred some life into the offense, but he could only do so much.
IU ended the season with just the No. 10 most efficient offense in the Big Ten, and No. 93 in the country. They shot just 33.3 percent for the season from three (No. 199 nationally) and 31.9 percent in the Big Ten (No. 13). IU also did itself no favors by finishing outside the top-200 in offensive rebounding nationally and just No. 11 in the league.
While the competition was inferior, it was apparent from the jump Indiana’s defense would be a force when they held four of their first five opponents to below 32 percent from the field.
As it turned out, Indiana’s defense was the reason behind all of its big wins, including holding Notre Dame to 36 percent from the field, and Ohio State to .75 points per possession. They were the first to hold Purdue under a point per possession in their win over the Boilermakers in January, and held Michigan to nine points over the final 13 minutes at the Big Ten Tournament before completely shutting down Illinois’ guards the next day.
Indiana had three high-end perimeter defenders in Johnson, Rob Phinisee, and Trey Galloway, and it is no coincidence IU was 12-4 in games when all three were available. That trio was supported on the back end by exceptional rim protection by the trio of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Jordan Geronimo. As a team IU combined for a 14.1 percent block rate — No. 18 in the country, and teams shot just 44 percent against the Hoosiers from 2-point range (No. 10 nationally).
Beyond the injuries to Phinisee (10 games) and Galloway (15 games), when Indiana broke down on defense it was usually due to miscommunication on ball screen coverages. An at times complex system of switching meant some teams got too many open looks from three, including Michigan, Iowa and Penn State.
The Hoosiers were also vulnerable against long, dynamic wings who could score from all three levels such as Johnny Davis, Keegan Murray and Julian Champagnie, as they lacked a good matchup throughout the season.
Indiana finished conference play with the league’s most efficient defense, and were No. 23 nationally according to KenPom.
First years of tenures often go just like this as new coaching staffs find their way. Woodson’s first season in a college program in 41 years made the learning curve and the turbulent campaign less than surprising.
It became apparent early on that the in season development of Xavier Johnson would be mission critical, and the coaching staff helped the fiery and erratic point guard transform into one of the nation’s best over the last quarter of the season.
An emphasis on defense from day one also helped IU have a foundation it could rely on, and it won several games on that end of the floor.
An offense that lacked imagination was limiting for much of the season, but credit the staff for finding the late season pick-and-roll game that got Jackson-Davis facing the basket more. The staff was able to light a fire under Jackson-Davis in the final week — and that helped secure the NCAA Tournament bid.
Certain aspects of Woodson’s decision-making frustrated fans. He stuck by a starting lineup that by and large wasn’t effective, and that came at the expense of developing younger talent. Substitution patterns seemed to stymie momentum, and Woodson’s early use of timeouts often left him limited in late game situations.
It would be impossible to not mention the many games where Indiana blew leads after halftime. Both losses to Wisconsin fall in that category, along with second half collapses against Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Rutgers and both losses to Iowa. In some of those games, however, the staff generated open looks that were missed.
Going forward the staff must put their imprint on many facets, including a more challenging non-conference slate, finding and developing more talented wings, and making better in-game adjustments.
Trayce Jackson-Davis (A-) Jackson-Davis rewrote the story of his season with a four game stretch that put IU in the NCAA Tournament and then delivered a win in the event. His play fell off some right around the time he fell hard on his hip at Nebraska, but overall this was an improved, more efficient season from Jackson-Davis offensively, and he emerged as a defensive force, garnering All-Big Ten honors on that end.
Race Thompson (B) Thompson went the other direction down the stretch. He seemed to wear down and made just 13-of-34 (38.2 percent ) in the final five games after making 55.5 percent in the first 30. Thompson was the gritty, sturdy, glue guy for IU, a consummate team player who did whatever was asked of him. He had five double-doubles and was second on the team in rebounds, blocks, and steals. But he is also a bit of a four-five ‘tweener who made for some interesting mismatches, both favorable and unfavorable.
Xavier Johnson (A-) Johnson’s late season emergence was a thing of beauty to watch. After a choppy start, he delivered eight games culminating in the win over Wyoming where he averaged 17.4 points and 7.1 assists and shot 45.3 percent from the field, and 50 percent from three. In the end he produced the fifth best season in IU history with 172 assists. At 38.3 percent, Johnson produced his best season from beyond the 3-point arc by more than three percentage points. And his 1.88 assist-to-turnover ratio was the best of his career.
Miller Kopp (C-) Kopp shot a respectable if not great 36.1 percent from three, but he didn’t get up nearly enough attempts (3.1 per game) to offset his lack of offensive versatility and defensive shortcomings. Kopp wasn’t effective shooting on the move, wasn’t a factor on the boards, and while he had moments as a chase defender, he left much to be desired laterally on the ball.
Parker Stewart (C-) Stewart shot 39 percent from three, and IU was able to get him a few more looks than Kopp (4.0 per game). He has a more complete repertoire as a shooter from long range than Kopp, but as his 32.7 percent from 2-point range highlights, Stewart was otherwise limited offensively. And he was targeted on the defensive end by opposing coaches. Stewart made just six 3-pointers over the last ten games, and ended the season in a 6-of-29 (20.1 percent) rut.
Rob Phinisee (C) Phinisee’s performance against Purdue was one of the nicest IU basketball stories in the last decade, with a career-high 20 points, four steals and a game-winner against his hometown team. Unfortunately for the senior point guard, the season was statistically his worst from the field as he shot just 31.2 percent, following a pattern of four straight seasons south of 40 percent. But it must be noted that Indiana’s defense was at its best with the ball hawk on the floor. Injuries have plagued Phinisee’s career, and this season was no different with a midseason plantar fascia injury.
Trey Galloway (B) Galloway is a perimeter shot away from being an All-Big Ten level performer. The sophomore guard gave IU major boosts when he returned from a wrist injury against Ohio State, and then again from a groin injury against Michigan. A rugged, physical defender, he was tied with Phinisee for the team’s best steal rate, and he shot 56.5 percent from two. But a second straight season below 22 percent from three leaves a major area for development.
Michael Durr (C) Durr’s frame and experience was worth taking the chance, but an overall lack of athleticism and offensive efficiency meant that he didn’t ultimately bring significant value to the floor.
Tamar Bates (C) After a highly promising start including an 11-point game against St. John’s and 13 at home against Nebraska, Bates went through the freshman blues and finished his first season making just 33.8 percent from the field while averaging 3.9 points. He’s the easy pick to click next season, and the minutes will likely be there for him.
Jordan Geronimo (B) Geronimo gave IU solid minutes off the bench most of the season. Although there were some head-scratching moments, his per-40 minute numbers tell a story. He averaged 13.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over a full game. The potential is tantalizing. If Geronimo can develop his offensive game, and specifically dribble drives from the perimeter, he can turn into a star as an upperclassman.
Anthony Leal (Incomplete) While he is a good passer, Leal’s best path to a consistent rotation role as an upperclassman is as a heat-check, open from anywhere 3-point shooter off the bench. He has the best looking shot on the team, but to this point he has been reluctant in that regard. And to be fair Leal made just 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from deep this season.
Khristian Lander (Incomplete) There were moments, but Lander still didn’t look like a confident player in year two. The data set is limited, but his 37.8 percent turnover rate was far too high, and he is not where he needs to be defensively. Lander can still be a good scorer and facilitator for IU down the road if he sticks with it.
Logan Duncomb (Incomplete) Duncomb, who turns 19 next month, played just 20 minutes for the entire season. Opportunities are likely to open up in the frontcourt for next season.
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