Indiana men’s basketball began official practices this week for the 2023-24 season.
The Hoosiers saw a lot of roster turnover from last season, but have high hopes for the upcoming campaign. But with so many new faces, some questions persist.
Here, in no particular order, are six questions about IU men’s basketball with the season around six weeks away.
How different will IU’s play style look from past years, in reality?
IU head coach Mike Woodson talked during the offseason, after completing this team’s roster, about adapting to a more modern style of basketball.
He came to Indiana in 2021 with a team centered around Trayce Jackson-Davis, and he essentially had no choice but to play through the star forward. That wasn’t a style he was used to playing, and IU has the pieces in place to spread things out more this year.
But Woodson, not unexpectedly, pumped the brakes a bit at IU’s media day last week regarding any major stylistic changes. He pointed out that the team utilized more pick-and-roll last year than some realized, and that will remain a big part of IU’s offense this season. And he said he’s “still looking” at the style of play.
So while IU has the pieces to spread the floor more this year, it’s fair to ask how the pieces will fit together. This has the potential to be a really good team if things work well. But a new style does not guarantee success.
Is Trey Galloway capable and ready to take on a higher-volume shooting role in the offense?
That new style, of course, would likely see an uptick in 3-point shooting for Indiana.
The Hoosiers weren’t an outright poor 3-point team last year — they ranked 44th in the nation in 3-point percentage at 36.76 percent, good for fourth in the Big Ten. But IU attempted the 11th-fewest 3-pointers per game in the country; it just wasn’t a big part of the offense.
And at the same time IU may look to open it up more from beyond the arc, the team lost its three highest-volume 3-point shooters from last season in Miller Kopp, Jalen Hood-Schifino, and Tamar Bates. So where is that shooting coming from?
Certainly Xavier Johnson will factor, as he was fourth on the team with 2.45 attempts per game. Sophomore CJ Gunn could be in line for a bigger role off the bench this season, and IU would look to him for shooting. Freshman Mackenzie Mgbako could contribute. Sophomore big man Kel’el Ware has some pick-and-pop ability to become a real weapon.
But IU may need Trey Galloway to take on a bigger shot diet this year. He made real strides in his 3-point shot last season, going from an 21.4 percent shooter as a sophomore to a team-best 46.2 percent as a junior. But that was on just 2.03 attempts per game.
It may be a lot to ask for him to approach Kopp’s 4.06 attempts per game from last season. But if he can come closer to three per game, that could make a big difference.
How much will IU’s defense drop off without Trayce Jackson-Davis in the middle?
It’s hard to suggest Indiana’s defense can get better after losing the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. IU is likely to see some sort of step back defensively with Jackson-Davis gone.
The real question isn’t whether or not that will happen; it’s how drastic will that regression be.
These Hoosiers could have more length than last year’s team, particularly in the frontcourt. That should help defensively, allowing for more switching. Getting Johnson back will help in the backcourt, as his absence was felt at times on defense. He and Galloway will be a strong guard tandem defensively.
But there will be a lot of youth in the frontcourt, and when IU goes to the bench. Jackson-Davis’ experience and savvy made a big difference in his defensive play — he not only had the physicality and tenacity required, but he was so often in the right positions to make plays. How much will losing some of that veteran experience in him, Kopp, and Race Thompson make a difference?
How quickly is Mackenzie Mgbako able to make an impact, and how big will his impact be?
Mgbako, ranked the No. 10 recruit in the class of 2023, is Indiana’s highest-rated commit since Romeo Langford in 2018.
It doesn’t take long to see why when watching his tape. A combo forward who can make things happen in the paint on both ends, and smoothly knock down 3-pointers. He has the build of a college basketball player even before his first game.
But not all touted freshmen are difference-makers from day one. Some need time to adapt. Even Hood-Schifino, who took home Big Ten Freshman of the Year after an outstanding season with the Hoosiers, needed some time to really acclimate to the college game.
Woodson said on media day that he doesn’t want to put a lot of pressure on Mgbako right away, but he’s expecting big things from the freshman.
IU will have plenty of early-season tests to gauge just how ready Mgbako is for this level. If he can meet those big expectations quickly, that would be huge for the Hoosiers.
Who will be this season’s clutch-time performers?
Last season, Indiana had two players in Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino that were pretty reliable in big moments of games. The type of guys who could consistently make clutch plays when Indiana needed it most.
So who will be in those roles this season? Johnson is a good bet. He’s done it before at IU, in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament in 2022, and even in a big game at Xavier last season.
Galloway, now with several years of experience, could step up there. And he already had some of that “right place, right time” savvy that lends itself well to those moments.
But in this team filled with transfer portal additions and underclassmen, there are plenty of other dart throws for this question. It’s not hard to see Mgbako turning into that type of player. If Ware puts it all together this season, he could certainly be a clutch-time factor as well. Someone like Gunn could play his way into this sort of role as well.
Who will be this team’s breakout players?
There are a lot of ways to frame that term, but for this, I’ll exclude Johnson, Galloway, and Mgbako.
Ware should arguably be in that group as well, but if he can improve his numbers a good amount from what he did at Oregon last season, he’d be somewhat of a revelation for the Hoosiers.
Gunn seems likely to be the first guard off the bench for Indiana, at least to start the year. If he forces his way into further increased playing time, he’s certainly a candidate. His classmates, forwards Malik Reneau and Kaleb Banks, could also qualify.
Reneau saw a good amount of playing time as a freshman, at 14.9 minutes per game. But he was inconsistent. He had some really nice games, but had many more where he got into foul trouble and struggled to make a sizable impact. If he can clean that up this year, he could be in for a nice sophomore season.
Banks, meanwhile, did not play very much last season. He entered 24 games, but averaged just 5.6 minutes per game, and he played double-digit minutes in just five contests. He’ll have a chance to get a larger role this season, but after adding Ware, Mgbako, Payton Sparks, and Anthony Walker in the frontcourt, it’s not a guarantee. That said, Banks had some positive moments in his limited run last season. If he can build on that in a potentially expanded role, he could become an important part of Indiana’s rotation this year.