Trayce Jackson-Davis helped Indiana end the NCAA Tournament drought last season and now he wants to lead the Hoosiers on a deeper postseason run.
Jackson-Davis flirted with leaving for the NBA before electing to stay in Bloomington, and his return is part of the reason why expectations are high as No. 13 Indiana opens the season against Morehead State on Monday night.
Jackson-Davis earned preseason All-American honors and now attempts to follow up a season in which he averaged 18.3 points and 8.1 rebounds, and racked up 81 blocked shots.
He ranks 15th in school history in career points (1,588), ninth in rebounding (797) and seventh in blocked shots (178).
The individual production is fine but doing something on the national stage is more appealing to Jackson-Davis.
“I think I have kind of set in stone my individual legacy, being an All-American and doing all those things,” Jackson-Davis said at Indiana’s media day. “But those don’t really matter if you don’t win something here. Winning is a big thing here, so winning a national championship and also winning a Big Ten title, those are my two main goals this year, and if I do that, I know everything else will take care of itself.”
Jackson-Davis has been bothered by a minor thumb injury leading up to the season.
The Hoosiers, who finished 21-14 last season, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. Indiana defeated Wyoming in the First Four and then was clobbered 82-53 by Saint Mary’s in the first round.
That ending didn’t sit well with anyone, and Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson is still bothered by it.
“The way we ended last season, it left a nasty taste in my mouth,” Woodson said. “I know our team was better. I’m not taking anything away from Saint Mary’s. They were great. They played an unbelievable game, but we didn’t show up. I don’t like that.”
Indiana should also be energized by a trio of freshmen — five-star big man Malik Reneau, point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino and forward Kaleb Banks.
Guard Xavier Johnson (12.1 points, 5.1 assists) and forward Race Thompson (11.1, 7.5 rpg) will again be key contributors.
Morehead State went 23-11 last season but is in rebuilding mode after star big man Johni Broome transferred to Auburn. Broome set a program record with 131 blocked shots and had 23 double-doubles while averaging 16.8 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Starting guard Skyelar Potter also departed and is now at Jacksonville State.
Guard Jake Wolfe (5.8) is the lone returning starter from a program with 11 newcomers.
“No matter who is wearing those jerseys, we are going to get the same result in our toughness, togetherness, our ability to defend and our ability to share the basketball,” Eagles coach Preston Spradlin said. “You can always find motivation in anything.”
Guard Mark Freeman is expected to play a leading role. He has previously played for Tennessee State and Illinois State. He averaged 8.8 points last season for Illinois State.
The intriguing addition is big man Alex Gross, who was an NAIA All-American at Olivet Nazarene. Gross compiled 2,021 points, 1,226 rebounds, 426 assists and 363 blocked shots in his four seasons at the school in Illinois.
Indiana has won all five previous meetings.
–Field Level Media