Xavier Johnson, Indiana Hoosiers, Big Ten Basketball

Despite big roster turnover, the Indiana Hoosiers are primed to be back in the Big Ten mix and compete for a conference title.

 

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

The Indiana Hoosiers lose a bunch of talent from last years squad. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino both moved on to professional careers, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp graduated, and Jordan Geronimo and Tamar Bates transferred.

Despite the losses, Mike Woodson quickly restocked his roster. Mackenzie Mgbako is an early pick for Big Ten freshman of the year, Kel’el Ware is a former five-star recruit who spent his first year at Oregon, and Payton Sparks is a scrappy forward coming over from Ball State, who are in the physical MAC.

Xavier Johnson will be tasked with leading these new faces back to the win column, coming back from a foot injury that sidelined him for the majority of last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by Trey Galloway, who shoots at an incredible clip.

The Big Ten seems to be loaded this year, making Woodson’s task even more difficult. However, he has done all he can off the court to bring the talent needed to Bloomington. Now, they will rely on the three point shot and scrappy defense to hopefully stir the pot and try to make the first deep run in the NCAA Tournament in Woodson’s tenure this season.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach: Mike Woodson (3rd season, all at Indiana)

2022-23 record: 23-12 (12-8)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to Miami (Fla), 85-69, in second round of NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Trayce Jackson-Davis (NBA Draft), Jalen Hood-Schifino (NBA Draft), Race Thompson (Graduated), Miller Kopp (Graduated), Tamar Bates (Transferred to Missouri), Jordan Geronimo (Transferred to Maryland), Logan Duncomb (Transferred to Xavier)

Notable non-conference games: vs. UConn (Nov. 19 in New York City), vs. Texas OR Louisville (Nov. 20 in New York City), vs. Auburn (Dec. 9 in Atlanta), vs. Kansas (Dec. 16)

Projected Rotation

PG: Xavier Johnson (6-3, 200, Gr.)

2022-23 stats: 9.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.3 RPG, 37.0 3P%

SG: Trey Galloway (6-4, 203, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 6.7 PPG, 2.1 APG, 3.0 APG, 46.2 3P%

SF: Mackenzie Mgbako (6-8, 210, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 10 rated recruit

PF: Malik Reneau (6-9, 235, So.)

2022-23 stats: 6.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.8 APG, 14.9 MPG

C: Kel’el Ware (7-0, 210, So.)

2022-23 stats: 6.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.5 APG (Oregon)

6: Gabe Cupps (6-1, 165, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 131 rated recruit

7: Payton Sparks (6-9, 240, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 58.8 FG% (Ball State)

8: Kaleb Banks (6-7, 200, So.)

2022-23 stats: 2.0 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.3 APG

9: Jakai Newton (6-3, 190, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 127 rated recruit

10: Anthony Walker (6-9, 215, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 2.8 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.3 APG (Miami-Fla)

Indiana Hoosiers MVP: Mackenzie Mgbako

Mackenzie Mgbako is expected to come into Bloomington and not only provide an immediate impact, but also lead the team. Maybe not from a leadership perspective, but the Hoosiers’ offense rests on Mgbako’s shoulders this season.

Mgbako is most comfortable beyond the arc, being able to create shots off the dribble, as well as creating space without the ball. He also seems like he has a nice mid-post game, although with tougher defenders at this level, that part of his game could take some time to translate.

It will be interesting to see how his defense and speed translate to college, as he was nothing spectacular at the high school level. However, he will not be tasked with having to be a top defender, he will just need to hold up his end and contribute on the other side of the ball.

Offensively, Mgbako will have to be consistent in scoring and shot production if Indiana wants any shot in the Big Ten. It is a tall task for a freshman, but the tenth ranked freshman looks to have it in him to do so.

Indiana Hoosiers make-or-break player: Xavier Johnson

Xavier Johnson will be Indiana’s make or break player this season, as the team will only go as far as he takes them. The fifth year point guard just received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA after breaking his foot last season 11 games in and not returning.

Johnson was on pace to have a career year, shooting just below 40% from three while dishing out just short of 5 assists per contest. His loss was huge for the Hoosiers, as they did not even make it out of the first weekend of last years NCAA Tournament.

Johnson will be forced to take on quite a large role this year. Although Mgbako is IU’s MVP, Johnson is IU’s catalyst on both sides of the ball. He will have to create shots for himself and the rest of the team, as well as anchor the defense. His defense is the best part of his game, with his offensive endeavors improving every year.

It will be interesting to see how Johnson responds coming off injury, but the guard seemed close to ready at the end of last season, so, barring any unknown setbacks, has been back at 100% for quite some time now.

Key analytics: 3P%

Indiana will live and die by the three pointer. Xavier Johnson shot 38.5% from three in his short season last year, and fellow backcourt mate Trey Galloway shot an astounding 46.2%. With the addition of Mgbako, Indiana’s three point shooting should be among the best in the country.

It is important for IU to manage their three-point shooting, though. Chucking up bad shots just because they are beyond the arc cannot be Mike Woodson’s strategy. The Hoosiers should be hunting quality looks from three, and working inside if nothing is there. Their 3P% will be a clear indication of their success this year.

Indiana Hoosiers 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 7th in the Big Ten

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Elite 8 Exit

By Samuel Bass

Writing sports, college basketball, ACC hoops

One thought on “CBB Rank 2023: No. 38, Indiana Hoosiers”
  1. I would really like this team so much more if they had been able to grab a pure shooter and/or scorer in the portal. I love Trey Galloway and his game but I’m just not sure he can provide the production that you need from a 2 on a really good team. Johnson returning is huge and Mgbako is obviously an elite talent but neither have a rep as great shooters. I really like the frontcourt, tons of talent, but can Ware and Reneau show why they were 5 Star recruits? If one or both fail, Patrick Sparks is a more than capable replacement and could be the best of the 3, despite being relatively unknown to most fans. Walker played a pretty sizeable role on a Final 4 team. If he’s your 4th guy, your frontcourt should be really good. Can they get any solid minutes from the group of Banks, Cupp, Newton, Leal, and Gunn in the backcourt? Huge question mark.

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