The clock is ticking.
We are past the midpoint of January, and Indiana has just 14 regular season games remaining. There’s less than eight weeks to Selection Sunday.
With an 11-6 overall record and a 2-4 mark in league play, IU is no lock to make the NCAA Tournament. That is a shocking thing to say about a team that was a preseason Big Ten favorite, and 7-0 and ranked in the top-10 six weeks ago.
So time is running out for the Hoosiers to get back to full strength and revive their once promising season. Down two veteran starters, Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson, IU could use some good news on their readiness to return to the floor.
The things that seem clear — Thompson, who has an MCL sprain, will return before Johnson, who had surgery following a broken foot. And Johnson has a good chance to return this season.
But beyond that, IU coach Mike Woodson is still waiting for a green light from long-time IU trainer Tim Garl.
“I talk to Tim every day,” Woodson said on Tuesday morning via Zoom. “The bottom line; they are not on the basketball floor. They are in rehab. They basically are in the training room doing rehab. You know, I don’t go in the training room and be inquire about what they are doing or get involved. That’s not my expertise.
“So when Tim tells me they are ready to get back out on the floor, then I’ll let you guys know that. But that’s not any time soon, I don’t think.”
Johnson suffered a broken foot against Kansas on Dec. 17 — exactly one month ago — and had surgery shortly thereafter. He has said on his social media accounts he’ll be back soon, but IU has said nothing beyond his return is indefinite. Johnson has been at Indiana’s recent games, wearing a walking boot on the repaired right foot. He has been shooting the basketball during pre-game.
Thompson was injured at Iowa on Jan. 5 when a Hawkeye player dove into his knee. According to a report by Jeff Goodman of Stadium, he should return in late January or early February.
Indiana has been shuffling it’s lineup since the injuries.
Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates have both earned starts in the backcourt, while Jordan Geronimo has started in the place of Thompson so far.
Johnson’s absence has led to the further emergence of freshman point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who is averaging 19.3 points in the six full games Johnson has missed, to go with 5.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field overall, including 53.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
This is the first time in Johnson’s career he’s missed time due to injury. He has been engaged on the IU bench, and Woodson says the fifth-year point guard is learning to appreciate the game from his new vantage point.
“I think X sees a lot more now than he’s ever saw, you know, by sitting over there watching just like I have to watch during practice and in games,” Woodson said. “And he kind of understands, he made that statement last week about ‘I see what you mean, coach, a lot of the stuff that you were getting on me about is not being done.’ I mean, you get a better view of it when your ass is sitting over there on the bench watching what’s going on there on the floor.
“In that regard, he’s been great because he’s been able to kind of help Jalen and some of the younger guys on some of the things that he sees that I see. So in that regard, it’s been great.
“I need him back in uniform, though, as quickly as possible.”
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