Updated: Oct 6, 2021
As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just about one month from now, with the "Champions Classic" getting things rolling on November 9th at Madison Square Garden.
And to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, all written by college basketball nut and recruiting guru Jacob Polacheck.
First up: The Indiana Hoosiers who, with a new coach, but familiar roster, appear to be poised to make their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016.
Also to read Aaron's preseason Top 25 - click here
How it went down in 2020-21:
The Indiana Hoosiers finished the 2020-21 season with the program’s first losing record in a decade, dating back to the 2010-11 team that finished just 12-20.
The Hoosiers season ended in a major tailspin, losing its final six games and firing head coach Archie Miller at the conclusion of the year. Still, there were reasons for optimism within the IU program. Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis emerged as a bonafide No. 1 option for the Hoosiers, posting averages of 19.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game on 51.7 percent shooting from the field, earning third-team All-American honors from Sporting News, NABC and the USBWA, while also being named a Karl Malone Award Finalists honoring the nation’s top power forward.
Alongside Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Rob Phinisee provided solid complementary roles, averaging 9.1 and 7.1 points per game respectively. Armaan Franklin (11.4 points) and Al Durham (11.3 points) rounded out the starting five to provide a solid group.
With a number of close game losses, IU’s 12-20 record could very well have been much better, as the team lost 10 games by single-digits, including three overtime losses.
What You Need to Know About 2021-2022:
Key Returnees: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Rob Phinisee, Khristian Lander
Key Losses: Armaan Franklin, Aljami Durham
Key Transfers: Michael Durr, Miller Kopp, Xavier Johnson
Key Recruits: Tamar Bates, Logan Duncomb
The biggest offseason move for the Hoosiers came with the hiring of head coach Mike Woodson to lead this roster. After several players entered the transfer portal, many were expecting a roster overhaul. But after Thompson, Khristian Lander, Jordan Geronimo and others pulled their names from the portal, and Trayce Jackson-Davis announced he wouldn't test the NBA Draft waters, Woodson's first IU team all of a sudden looked like a fringe Top 25 squad.
The Thompson and Phinisee returns don’t come as a surprise, but are significant nonetheless, while Lander having a season of college basketball under his belt should play major dividends this season. He is of course a former five-star high school player, who elected to reclassify and enroll in college early last year.
The big question mark surrounds the newcomers, who are expected to play important roles on this team, specifically the three incoming transfers. With the major roster upheaval across college basketball this offseason, transfers are more important than ever.
Jackson-Davis is expected to be the team’s leader with Thompson as a major contributor. The team will need a multitude of players to step up in order to return to the NCAA Tournament, with transfers Michael Durr, Miller Kopp and Xavier Johnson all entering the 2021-22 season. Three-point shooting has been a consistent issue for the Hoosiers in recent years (they shot just 32 percent last year as a team) and that will have to change in order for this team to return to national relevance.
Playing time for this Hoosiers team may ultimately come down to who can knock down the long ball consistently with backcourt players Trey Galloway, Anthony Leal, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp and Tamar Bates all battling for backcourt roles.
Like last season, the Big Ten is expected to be a gauntlet for teams this season, with Purdue (No. 6), Michigan (No. 9), Illinois (No. 14) and Maryland (No. 26) all falling in Aaron Torres’ preseason ankings.
The Hoosiers will face Eastern Washington and Northern Illinois to open the season before a crucial non-conference matchup with St. John’s on Nov. 17. After a few buy games at home, the Hoosiers will hit the road for a highly-anticipated Nov. 30 matchup with Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
In terms of NCAA Tournament resumes are concerned, getting those wins against St. John's and Syracuse will be crucial.
Looking ahead, Indiana opens Big Ten play at Wisconsin on Dec. 8 before returning home for a non-conference matchup against Merrimack in the team’s final non-conference regular season game.
To begin its full conference slate, Indiana has a road matchup with Penn State before a crucial matchup with Ohio State on Jan. 6. Road matchups with Iowa on Jan. 13 and Nebraska on Jan. 17 will gear the Hoosiers up for three highly-important home matchups with Purdue (Jan. 20), Michigan (Jan. 23) and Penn State (Jan. 26). After closing out January with a road matchup at Maryland on Jan. 29, the Hoosiers will have a brutal February with matchups against Illinois (Feb. 5), Northwestern (Feb. 8), Michigan State (Feb. 12) and Wisconsin (Feb. 15).
The final stretch of the season sees the Hoosiers bounce from home and away, traveling to Ohio State on Feb. 19, returning home to face Maryland on Feb. 24, heading to face Minnesota on Feb. 27, returning home to play Rutgers and wrapping up the season with a road matchup at Purdue.
Expect another season of intense Big Ten play as Indiana looks to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
What to Expect in 2021-2022:
With a new head coach at the helm, there’s reason for optimism in Bloomington. The team returns three starters from a year ago with junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis leading the way. Race Thompson and Rob Phinisee will remain in the starting lineup as key secondary pieces, while sophomore guard Khristian Lander will be expected to step up in a larger role.
Expect the Hoosiers to rely on transfers Xavier Johnson, Miller Kopp and Michael Durr to provide depth for this roster, containing a solid mixture of veterans and newcomers. Indiana didn’t boast the most notable 2021 recruiting class, but by bringing in four-star recruits Tamar Bates and Logan Duncomb, the Hoosiers are well set to improve upon its 2020-21 season.
Shooting will be crucial to the success of this year’s Hoosier’s team and with a combination of returnees and newcomers, Indiana is well-positioned for a Top-25 finish.
If this team doesn't make its first NCAA Tournament in six seasons, something went disastrously wrong.
For more college hoops coverage, make sure to follow Jacob Polacheck on Twitter @JacobPolacheck
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