Perhaps it has not been the most picture perfect opening portion to the 2023-2024 season for the Indiana University men's basketball club. With a 9-3 record as of Christmas Day (MERRY CHRISTMAS!), things could certainly be worse. On the flip side, things could certainly be better. Since receiving a few top 25 votes in the preseason, the team has yet to earn a top 25 ranking. Other than a small spotlight following their gritty showing in the wire to wire defeat at the hands of juggernaut Kansas, this is a squad in search of enhanced national acknowledgment.
That nationwide clout is going to take time to develop, with it's upcoming clash with nemesis and current national number 1 Purdue representing their next grand opportunity to change the narrative surrounding their season. That game is a ways off though (January 16th), with 5 games standing between now and then. If they can string together a streak of success leading up to that standoff, the Hoosiers will have a lot more eyes on them from a broader perspective.
For now, we will focus on providing some individual credit for the guys that have played well in the 2023 section of the 2023-2024 season. More specifically, we are handing out some premature early season awards. These trophies may not be tangible, but they are our subliminal gifts for a few of our beloved Hoosier men's hoopers on this beautiful Christmas morning.
MVP | Kel'el Ware
It has not taken Ware long to establish his legitimacy with Indiana. He is not only currently the team's top scorer, but is also the only player presently receiving serious NBA draft looks. Most Hoosier fans would surely agree with his selection for this accolade at this point in the season.
Defensive Player of the Year | Kel'el Ware
Ware's offense has been the more storied side of his game, but he has also been a solid anchor on the defensive end of the court. He leads the team in rebounds and blocks by a landslide, and has physical traits that should translate nicely to the NBA.
Most Improved Player | Malik Reneau
Reneau's ascension from year 1 to year 2 is clearly illustrated in his numbers. Aside from a dip in free throw accuracy and an uptick in turnovers, all of his major statistical categories have improved immensely when comparing his sophomore and freshman seasons in Bloomington. Despite his lumbering stature, his boost in versatility has been a silver lining this year.
6th Man of the Year | Anthony Walker
The Miami transfer has been a huge contributor off the pine for Mike Woodson in his final collegiate season. Walker is a stable source of energy and tenacious defense, constantly giving the team quality minutes while simultaneously giving the starters rests. It took him a few games to get acclimated, but his presence has definitely been felt on this team with that especially being the case over the past few weeks.
Rookie of the Year | Gabe Cupps
Mackenzie Mgbako was obviously the biggest name on the incoming list of freshman for IU. And while his performance has been slightly improving, it is fellow true freshman Gabe Cupps who deserves more credit for his contributions early on. His stats have been subtle, but you can visually understand the point guard's significance to this team when you watch a game. He never tries to do too much on offense, and his defensive pressure has been crucial. His role should shrink upon Xavier Johnson's impending return from injury, but he should also remain a key cog in the rotation for the remainder of the 2023-2024 season.