Andy Katz
FOX College Sports Basketball Analyst

MINNEAPOLIS — Collection Indiana to win Big Ten and being a preseason top-10 team was a no-brainer.

The Hoosiers return nearly their entire team, including the Big Ten’s preseason player of the year and first-team All-American prospect Trace Jackson-Davis.

Rayce Thompson is paired with TJD in the frontcourt again. Xavier Johnson is regaining his toughness and toughness on the perimeter. Miller Cope can be a quality shooter again if he can find consistency. Jordan Geronimo, Tamar Bates and Trey Galloway are top rotation players who will have their moments. And a recruiting group led by freshmen Jalen Hood-Shiffino on the perimeter and Malik Reno up front make this the deepest and most dangerous team in the Big Ten.

It was a consensus, a simple choice.

And all you have to do is remember how the Hoosiers played in the postseason.

Castle. Down. Protection.

Indiana beat Michigan in the second half of the surge. The Hoosiers held Illinois to 63 in a two-point victory. And after he lost Iowa the conference semifinals then hosted Indiana Wyoming to 58 points in the top four at Dayton.

A few days later, the Hoosiers were cut Saint Mary in Portland. And while it was disappointing, it was more motivation.

“We’re definitely hungry,” Thompson said. “That taste makes us even more hungry to take the next step.”

This is not a leap. It’s a natural progression with a team that actually stayed together and wasn’t broken NBA Draft and/or transfer portal.

“When I decided to come back, the whole state was behind me and my teammates,” Jackson-Davis said. “It’s hard to leave this place. We have unfinished business.”

Jackson-Davis said the Hoosiers’ defensive turnaround and strong postseason play showed it would be plausible if this group stayed together.

“Everybody saw us play like a top-20, top-15 team,” Jackson-Davis said. “When you play freshmen like that, us coming in like Jalen and Malik, that’s not the limit.”

Indiana fans have every reason to be more cautious than going all-in. The Hoosiers have been the opposite of consistent for decades. But this time, yes, this time, there’s no reason why Indiana can’t live up to expectations and legitimately make the Final Four in Houston.

“The core is back with Trace, Race, X and Miller, and I like to think that Tamar Bates has gotten better and Geronimo has started to come to us late,” Woodson said. – And then four freshmen were added. Somehow they have to be big sponges and learn as much as possible. We have to speed up the process if we’re going to do the damage they have to take part in it.”

Woodson was an especially defensive coach in the NBA, and that’s his outlook in college. Game D means his team will likely be in close games. The Hoosiers lost their share of late possession games a season ago. This lesson has certainly been learned.

The Hoosiers will need to shoot better than 33% on 3s, but more scoring options in and around the basket could make up for that this season. They will try to get out and run as much as possible and tie the teams.

Indiana’s depth, experience and star power make the Hoosiers an easy pick in the Big Ten with so many teams undergoing major talent overhauls. Don’t get me wrong, the conference will have plenty of NCAA Tournament contenders — potentially anywhere from nine to 11.

But Woodson wasn’t afraid to schedule not only a bid, but also a high seed. Woodson had no say in the Gavitt Games, but was road tested at a high level Xavier November 18. It also gets an ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup against likely No. 1 and 2022 runner-up North Carolina November 30. Woodson did have a say in the schedule Arizona in Las Vegas on December 10 and Kansas December 17. Few coaches would put their team through such a gauntlet without confidence that his team could handle it.

“It’s going to be crazy (for North Carolina), unbelievable,” Woodson said. “We’ve got Kansas and Arizona in Las Vegas. That’s the way it should be. College basketball is supposed to be competitive and fun, but we still have to come out and win. And that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Read more:

– Is this the year Gonzaga wins big?

– Q&A: Gonzaga’s Drew Timm discusses the impact of the NIL and more

– 40 storylines to watch as the 2022-23 season approaches

– Top 15 Team Countdown: No. 11 TCU

Andy Katz is a longtime basketball writer, analyst and broadcaster. He can be seen on the FOX Sports and Big Ten Network platforms, as well as March Madness and, and hosts the “March Madness 365” podcast. Katz has worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and before that spent nine years in newspapers.

Get more from college basketball Follow your favorites to stay updated on games, news and more