Indiana Men's Basketball: 1 Active NCAA Player Who Could Save the Hoosiers

Jalen Blackmon, Stetson University Men's Basketball
Jalen Blackmon, Stetson University Men's Basketball / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

With Xavier Johnson taking a bit of a step backwards in terms of his on-court performance and a major step backwards in terms of his on-court leadership, Mike Woodson and the Indiana Hoosiers have been missing that one piece to hold everything together. While Johnson was so-so in the team's first 6 games prior to his injury and had a pleasant performance a few weeks back in the win over Ohio State, the 6th-year senior has ultimately been a negative influence for the 2023-2024 Hoosiers. XJ was supposed to be the team's best player. He was supposed to orchestrate a potent offense and spearhead a tough defense. Johnson was supposed to be the leader of the Indiana University men's basketball team this season.

However, sloppy on-court output (3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, and 1.3 APG to 2.3 TOPG on shooting splits of 20% FG/0% 3/75% FT in the four games since his big night against the Buckeyes) and poor demeanor (2 flagrant fouls including 1 ejection in those same contests) has led to the preseason All-Big Ten 2nd teamer losing his starting gig to true freshman Gabe Cupps. Cupps has been solid in his first year, but is by no means the answer to fans' prayers. This is a ball club that needs a genuine difference maker, with that especially being the case on the offensive end.

Without Johnson's typical cataclysmic capabilities (career 12.5 PPG and 4.7 APG) at the point guard spot, the Hoosiers have lacked any sense of sauce from their perimeter threats. With a void in 3-point accuracy and volume, opposing defenses have been able to pack the paint in their efforts to prevent Indiana's powerful frontcourt pairing from pummeling defenders. While Malik Reneau has primarily been able to overcome the added pressure on the offensive end, it has been evident recently that Kel'el Ware has been negatively impacted by the lack of spacing on the outside.

This ongoing dilemma for the Indiana Hoosiers has us thinking: which active NCAA basketball player could hypothetically elevate the ceiling of this team?

Jalen Blackmon could be "That Guy"

Indiana is set in the frontcourt with Ware, Reneau, and the rapidly rising Mackenzie Mgbako. Those three alone have enough talent to form the foundation of this program. And while Trey Galloway may not be a traditional point guard, he leads the team in dimes (3.9 APG) and has generally exuded the aptitude of a point guard when it comes to ball control (career 1.1 TOPG). He is also a quality option defensively at the point of attack, and has an abundance of experience defending the top perimeter threats for opponents. Galloway has the ability to check a lot of the boxes you look for in a starting guard, but scoring consistently has always been his main downfall. Because of this, the Hoosiers would benefit strongly from a score-first perimeter threat who could reasonably be counted on to get buckets in the clutch.

Jalen Blackmon
Jalen Blackmon, Stetson University Men's Basketball / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

Jalen Blackmon, the NCAA's 9th leading scorer in 2023-2024 at 21.3 PPG, could be just the sailor to get this ship back afloat. Blackmon's ties to the program are not just tethered to his big brother James (AKA Hoosier-great JBJ), as he was recruited heavily by Archie Miller before taking his talents to Phoenix, Arizona in committing to Grand Canyon University. After just one season with the Lopes, he shifted paths when he elected to transfer to Stetson University prior to the start of last season. Since his migration from Arizona to Florida, Blackmon has become one of the most lethal mid-major scorers in the NCAA.

JB can absolutely fill it up, and he has an expansive bag of offensive tricks. While Indiana would strongly welcome his overall scoring ability, it is his shooting stroke which could be his most impactful trait. The junior shooting guard is cashing in on 41% of his treys on over 8 attempts-per-game this season. Inserting that type of explosiveness would open up a ton of real estate for the big boys to work with down low. Furthermore, it would create more opportunities for Galloway to attack driving lanes. With Blackmon and Mgbako flanking the interior scorers for Indiana, defenses would have some extremely difficult decisions to make each game.