With the return of Trayce Jackson-Davis, the external expectation for Indiana should be to finish at or near the top of the Big Ten next season

  • 05/20/2022 3:43 pm in

There is probably a more eloquent or descriptive way to lead into this, but instead, let’s get right to the point.

Trayce Jackson-Davis is returning to IU for the 2022-23 season.

The external expectation for Indiana should be to finish at or near the top of the Big Ten next season.

This is the sum of various developments this offseason, but Jackson-Davis was the biggest piece to the puzzle for the Hoosiers to maximize their potential next season. In April, Jackson-Davis declared for the 2022 NBA draft while maintaining his college eligibility. Jackson-Davis was at some points expected to participate in the 2022 NBA Draft Combine. But he was unable to participate in this week’s event because of a positive COVID-19 test, Inside the Hall learned.

On Friday, Jackson-Davis publicly announced that he is returning to IU.

The return of Jackson-Davis does a lot in both tangible and intangible ways. Here’s a player that has scored 1,588 points and grabbed 797 rebounds in three seasons at IU. He has also been in the program during a rather tumultuous time. Jackson-Davis played two seasons at IU for Archie Miller. Then after Miller was fired in March 2021, Jackson-Davis stayed around to play for Mike Woodson. This is to say that both Jackson-Davis’ skillset and his experience have the potential to help steer IU toward success.

As of right now, Indiana’s 13 scholarships for the 2022-23 season appear to be filled. This offseason, Rob Phinisee, Parker Stewart, Khristian Lander and Michael Durr all entered the transfer portal and have since signed with other programs. But the addition of new players and retainment of others have seemed to overshadow those losses.

As far as we can tell, four of Indiana’s five starters from (a majority of) last season are returning. That group has a lot of experience playing at the college level. Along with Jackson-Davis, there’s Race Thompson, whose toughness and development were key storylines last season. There’s also dynamic point guard Xavier Johnson, who at times was inconsistent, but largely came into dominant form toward the end of the season. There’s sharpshooter Miller Kopp, who had an up and down season but is an integral part of IU’s offensive floor spacing.

Among other potential rotation players, there’s guard Tamar Bates, who was the 30th ranked prospect in the 2021 class (per the 247Sports Composite), but didn’t quite live up to expectations last season. There’s forward Jordan Geronimo, who perhaps has the most potential on the current roster. There’s guard Trey Galloway, who has started a total of 10 games in his IU career, including three last season. Galloway has battled through various injuries in his two seasons at IU but nonetheless has been an impact player.

There are the four incoming freshmen: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Malik Reneau, Kaleb Banks and CJ Gunn. Indiana’s 2022 recruiting class is ranked 8th nationally, according to 247Sports (those rankings are solely based on the 247Sports Composite Rating). Hood-Schifino and Reneau, who were teammates at Montverde Academy, are largely perceived to have the biggest potential impact next season.

So this is what Indiana will likely have. The Hoosiers have the chance to build off of last season’s NCAA tournament appearance.

There were plenty of moments last season where it appeared as if the Hoosiers would never fully turn the corner. During one stretch in February, Indiana lost five consecutive games. Once perceived as a lock to make the NCAA tournament, the Hoosiers played themselves back onto the bubble.

Some of these moments, even from earlier in the season, added to a building frustration. In November, Indiana’s awful first-half against Syracuse turned into a double-overtime loss. In December, IU blew a 22-point lead at Wisconsin, leading to another narrow loss. Ron Harper Jr. sank a game-winning three for Rutgers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in early March. Those were just some of the many missed opportunities.

But finally, things started to crystalize with on-court success for Indiana in the Big Ten tournament. They took down Michigan. Then they defeated Illinois. It took a game-winning banked 3-pointer from Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon to send IU home in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. But suddenly, the mood around the program seemed to shift. The gap between winning and losing in all of those games from earlier in the season didn’t seem as wide.

That stretch at the Big Ten tournament gave optimism not only for next season but also for the program as a whole. It helped secure IU a berth in the NCAA tournament. Indiana beat Wyoming in the First Four before losing to Saint Mary’s.

And now, there is a mix of talent and depth and experience on the 2022-23 roster, perhaps at a level that Indiana hasn’t had in recent seasons. All of those factors lead to the external expectation that Indiana should finish at or near the top of the Big Ten next season. It’s important to note that expectations don’t always perfectly equate to success. Preseason buzz is preseason buzz. It’s probably good to take it with a grain of salt.

But this season is a major opportunity for Indiana to make itself nationally relevant on the big stage. It’s just one season. But it’s a step. It’s a chance. For a program trying to get back on top, a chance shouldn’t be overlooked.

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