Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

Mike Woodson aligned with high expectations: “I came back here to win Big Ten titles and a national title”

High expectations are nothing new to Indiana men’s basketball – winning five national championships among a bevy of other achievements will do that for a program. But for a roster that saw limited success prior to last season, the opposite is also true.

After going six years in between NCAA Tournament appearances, preseason expectations from outside the program were lower than in decades past. But now, after a March Madness win over Wyoming and returning most production from last season’s roster, the Hoosiers are entering the season as likely a top-15 team in the nation, Big Ten favorites and a potential Final Four dark horse.

Having played at IU during the most successful period in program history, head coach Mike Woodson understands just how high the standards are for Indiana basketball. While he acknowledged that the team has to prove it on the floor, he did not shy away from stating his ultimate goal for the team: winning a Big Ten Championship, and bringing an elusive sixth NCAA Championship to Bloomington.

“I take a season one game at a time, one practice at a time. Yes, we’ve got goals,” Woodson said on Thursday. “I came back here to win Big Ten titles and a national title. That’s all I want. I’m not going to push the team in any other direction. If they’re scared of that challenge, then they shouldn’t be here.”

While high preseason expectations are a new challenge for Indiana’s 2022-23 roster, on-court experience is not a question. The Hoosiers have the highest percentage of returning production in the Big Ten in terms of points (82.8%) and rebounds (86.2%), and are second in returning production for both assists (79.3%) and three-point shooting (62.4%).

The most experienced player on the veteran-heavy roster, sixth-year forward Race Thompson, has taken on a larger leadership role as the team navigates uncharted waters.

“As a team, this is all new for everybody, obviously I’ve grown as a leader as I’ve been here,” Thompson said. “I’ve been here for a while. I’ve been taught by the people who came before me, so I’m trying just to pass my knowledge that I learned from them down on things that worked and things that didn’t work, so we can build as a team and be the best team we can be.”

His leadership has not gone unnoticed in the locker room either. Junior guard Anthony Leal mentioned Thompson as an influence of his, as the now-upperclassman strives to become a bigger voice and influence on the team as the Hoosiers look to surpass their lofty goals.

“I try to be a leader, not like a leader that’s enforcing and powerful, but I’ve done things the right way and prepared the right way since I got here. I try to set a great example for the kids,” Leal said. “Race helped me a lot, I’ve learned a lot from him.”

While team-wide expectations are new for every player on Indiana’s 2022-23 roster, external expectations have been a constant for senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis throughout his IU career. The All-American and All-Big Ten player said that personal accomplishments are no longer his goal – now, it’s all about winning a championship.

“I think I have kind of set the stone of my individual legacy, being an All-American and doing all those things, but those don’t really matter if you don’t win something here,” Jackson-Davis said. “Winning is a big thing here, so winning a National Championship and also winning a Big Ten title, those are my two main goals this year, and if I do that, I know everything else will take care of itself.”

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