Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

Mike Woodson has his starting five for debut as the IU basketball coach

The first five isn’t always the end of game five, but for now Mike Woodson will go with the same five when his IU basketball coaching career debuts on Tuesday night.

“Practice has been so competitive. But I’m going to stay with the same lineup we’ve taken into the Bahamas games,” Woodson said on Monday.

That means point guard Xavier Johnson, shooting guard Parker Stewart, small forward Miller Kopp, power forward Race Thompson and center Trayce Jackson-Davis will walk to the center of the Branch McCracken Court at 6 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night when the Hoosiers face Eastern Michigan.

That lineup was not only utilized by Woodson in The Bahamas, it was also the starting unit when the Hoosiers held a scrimmage last weekend against Belmont.

“We’ve kind of started that way all three games, and it’s been some positives and some negatives,” Woodson said.

The lineup is an interesting mix of the new and returning players on this Indiana basketball team.

Each of Johnson, Stewart and Kopp transferred in over the last year, while Thompson and Jackson-Davis started every game for the Hoosiers in 2020-21.

While starting lineups are always noteworthy, who is on the floor at the end of games is more important.  Woodson sees several of his reserves as potential candidates to be on the court at crunch-time.

“I think our rotating guys, guys that are coming off (the bench) have gotten better,” Woodson said.

“They’re pushing practice every day and that’s a bonus, because it makes the first unit compete. And the guys like Rob (Phinisee) and (Trey) Galloway and even Logan (Duncomb) and (Jordan) Geronimo, guys like that, they’re pushing practice. Anthony (Leal too.)

“It’s been a nice mixture. So I’m just anxious to see where we are as a ball club as a whole once we jump it up tomorrow night.”

Determining just how deep into the bench Woodson will go in close games appears to still be a work in a process.  He’s been advised to keep the rotation as low as seven, although he is inclined to go up to ten.  Indiana has 13 players on scholarship.

“I’ve always asked my staff, when I got here, what are most colleges doing and how deep do most teams in college basketball go,” Woodson said.  “And a lot of them said eight, nine guys. Some teams go seven. I love to build a team where you can go as deep as ten because then you don’t burn guys out and about time you get to the Big Ten everybody’s fresh and feeling good about themselves.”

Indiana will likely have several games early in the season that aren’t close which will allow Woodson to empty the bench.

Two clear rotation players, guard Tamar Bates and center Michael Durr, are dealing with minor injuries and may not play on Tuesday night.

“I don’t know if we’re there in terms of being able to go ten yet,” Woodson said.  “But somehow we’ve got to work Mike (Durr) and Tamar Bates back into the mix, because again they’re big pieces to the puzzle as well.

“And if they’re able to hold their own and add to what we’ve got, we probably could go nine or ten.”

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