Transfer portal season has arrived and here’s what IU should be looking to add

  • 03/21/2024 8:14 am in

It’s a make-or-break offseason for Mike Woodson.

He’s had some portal success in the past, and retaining critical pieces like Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal is a step in the right direction. However, there will be plenty of new pieces to acclimate in Bloomington next winter. Indiana had plenty of roster turnover last offseason and it’ll be more of the same in Woodson’s fourth year with even more scrutiny on the roster.

CJ Gunn, Kaleb Banks and Payton Sparks were the first Hoosiers to announce their next step on Tuesday as they entered the transfer portal earlier this week. Assuming All-Big Ten center Kel’el Ware enters the NBA draft, that will leave seven open scholarship spots for Woodson and his staff to fill. After five-star wing Liam McNeeley de-committed from the program weeks ago, Indiana has no commitments in the 2024 high school class, making the Hoosiers the only Big Ten team without one.

Indiana will have to build from scratch, but it’s certainly possible to build a contending team in one offseason in modern-day college basketball.

Here are some types of pieces Indiana should be looking to add to complete its roster if the Hoosiers want to rid the sour taste the 2023-24 season has left for many in the fanbase.

Again, this is contingent on Indiana adding the right pieces rather than the best ones — a vital thing to remember in portal season. The best teams this season added the right pieces, but maybe not the most talented or eye-popping. UConn’s Cam Spencer and North Carolina’s Harrison Ingram were both highly valued in the portal last season, but the fit has made them different players than they were at previous schools.

Rim protector and rim runner

Filling Kel’el Ware’s shoes at center, assuming he enters the NBA draft, won’t be easy. The future pro had an outstanding sophomore season after transferring from Oregon. The seven-footer averaged 15.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in a little over 32 minutes a contest. He made the Big Ten all-defensive team while averaging 1.9 blocks a contest, putting him in the 97th percentile of all D-1 players.

Ware’s replacement shouldn’t have to fill up the offensive stat sheet for IU to be successful, but replacing some of his defensive production and giving the Hoosiers a lob threat is ideal. Even if his replacement can’t shoot the ball and stretch the floor as well as Ware, as long as he provides physical defense and can rebound, Indiana should be able to succeed.

Since becoming the head coach, Woodson has been lucky to have Trayce Jackson-Davis and Ware in his frontcourt. He’s been applauded for his utilization and development of his big men. Ideally, Indiana will go after a center with multiple years of eligibility left.

Point guard who can facilitate and play off-ball

Indiana’s issues at the point guard position have been headlined by Xavier Johnson’s unavailability the past two seasons. Johnson’s speed and strength helped him, but his injuries, poor shooting and decision-making capped Indiana’s ceiling in the backcourt. The veteran wasn’t a disastrous shooter, but his inconsistencies never made him a direct threat from the perimeter. Last season, he made 11 of his 30 attempts from distance.

Pairing a guard that matches with Galloway’s skillset is critical to Indiana’s success next season. Galloway can make plays but needs a little help, as the Hoosiers will have him come off screens on the elbows to get to his floater. The senior excelled as a ball handler and decision-maker down the stretch. His 4.6 assists a game was seventh best in the Big Ten. Galloway’s size at 6-foot-5 is also a plus if he continues to play at the two. Woodson favors bigger guards who can maneuver in and out of lane like Galloway and former first-round draft choice Jalen Hood-Schifino.

Landing a guard who can facilitate and is comfortable enough to play off-ball and come off screens as an elite shooter would be the perfect fit. Size helps on the defensive end of the court. The Hoosiers have already reached out to several portal entrants, five of whom made 40 or more 3-pointers last season. Only one Hoosier, Mackenzie Mgbako, made more than 26 3s this past season.

Three and D

Think of UConn’s Spencer as the perfect prototype. You can never have too much shooting and another two-way guard who can shoot would add productive depth to Indiana’s backcourt.

Leal played meaningful minutes at the tail end of this season. He’s proven worthy of being a part of the bench rotation next season. But there’s still room to grow in Indiana’s guard depth. IU must find consistent 3-point production.

Gabe Cupps and Jakai Newton are still too young to fully tell how they will pan out and how productive they will be in their second years on campus.

Wing depth

Mgbako’s future is still unknown, but he feels like another piece Woodson must do his best to retain this offseason — especially with McNeeley’s decision not to attend IU.

But still, a 6-foot-6 and above physical wing player who can rebound and shoot at a decent clip will give Indiana more versatility on the defensive end and a floor stretcher.

Banks seemed as if he would be able to step into that role this past season but was cut out of the rotation in January. Productive athleticism and versatility on the wing have been a difficult get for the Hoosiers under Woodson.

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