The seven most important questions about IU basketball in 2024-25 – The Daily Hoosier

We are four months away from the highly anticipated edition of IU basketball.

The Hoosiers appear to be safe to open the season in the Top 25 after head coach Mike Woodson and his staff pulled off what most consider to be a strong offseason of roster construction. In their way-too-early Top 25 list released Monday, ESPN kept the Hoosiers at No. 18.

But Indiana has only managed a 63-40 record overall in Woodson's first three years, including a 31-29 record in the Big Ten. That disappointing performance and a revamped roster leave a lot of uncertainty surrounding the 2024-25 Hoosiers.

Here are our top seven questions about IU basketball as the calendar turns to the second half of 2024.

How often do Ballo and Reneau play together? Is IU getting smaller?

With several proven college guards and wings on the roster, Indiana has a clear chance to play smaller this year. However, it would be a surprise if Arizona transfer center Oumar Ballo and returning forward Malik Reneau aren't both in the starting lineup to open the 2024-25 season. Both players perform best in the low block, which doesn't suggest a transition to smaller lineups with better space allocation.

The real question might be how many minutes the two get on the court together. Ballo has averaged about 27 minutes per game over the past two years, and Reneau played 28.6 minutes per game a year ago. If that minute total stays the same next year, IU could develop rotations where they play no more than half the games in the same lineup. And that could open the door for three-guard lineups while scoring wingers Mackenzie Mgbako and Luke Goode get time in a stretch-four role.

Will Galloway be ready? Will he start?

Trey Galloway, a five-year veteran of Indiana, has started 66 games, including all but seven of the last two years when he was available.

But Galloway is coming off knee surgery and will be joined in the backcourt by talented sophomores Myles Rice and Kanaan Carlyle. Rice was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Carlyle is being mentioned as a possible first-round pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

If Galloway is ready to play when the season begins — and that's the expectation — will he start for IU? As we said above, Ballo and Reneau are likely starters, as is Mackenzie Mgbako. That means one of Rice, Carlyle and Galloway will have to come off the bench. Don't be surprised if Galloway is a backup to start the year.

Is Mgbako ready to take the next step?

Despite his 5-star rating, Mgbako got off to a slow start as a rookie. In his first 11 games, he shot just 38% from the field and just 21% from three-pointers. And he probably struggled even more defensively.

But Mgbako put together a 19-game streak in which he made 39.4% of his three-pointers on 5.2 attempts per game, while averaging 13.7 points and improving as a defender during that span.

Like Carlyle, Mgbako is projected as a potential first-round pick on 2025 NBA draft boards. Can he get off to a fast start and then step it up a gear in year two as he develops into a more complete wing player on both ends of the court? Improved guard play should give Mgbako plenty of quality shots.

What roles do the guards of the class of 2023 have?

Guards Gabe Cupps and Jakai Newton from the class of 2023 will be interesting to watch next season, with one of them potentially being a bit of an underdog due to guard depth.

Cupps played a lot more as a freshman than anyone expected after Xavier Johnson struggled with injuries. And while he had some positive moments and played hard, Cupps struggled at times adjusting to the college game. Will he take a step back from his 21.7 minutes per game as a freshman? That seems like a given given what we've seen from Rice, Carlyle and Galloway at the high major level.

Newton will have been out of a real game for about 20 months by the time IU opens its season in November. And even that was just a brief appearance in the second half of his senior season after knee surgery. So what can we realistically expect from his redshirt freshman season? No one can say for sure, but Newton's speed and athleticism have already turned heads in the spring.

What about McDonald's All-American rookie?

Has Indiana ever had a McDonald's All-American freshman fly-by-night stand more unnoticed than Bryson Tucker? With a core of seven players who have proven they can make major contributions at a high level, it doesn't seem like IU will rely heavily on Tucker to step in and put up big numbers right away.

But that doesn't mean he won't play a role for the Hoosiers. Woodson has said several times this spring and summer that he rates Tucker highly, and the fourth-year coach likes to start the season off the bench. So Tucker will get plenty of opportunities. And at 6-foot-1 and with the skills of a guard, he's versatile enough for the team to try him in multiple roles.

Can the Hoosiers stay healthy? Do they have enough depth to handle injuries?

Woodson believes he has a luxury he didn't have in his first three seasons at IU – depth throughout the roster. Players like Galloway, Goode and Tucker, when all coming off the bench, certainly seem to give the Hoosiers an edge over opposing bench players in most games.

Carlyle and Galloway can now both play guard, providing additional protection from injury. The same goes for Reneau and Ballo, who can both play at the five, with Langdon Hatton able to support both.

Can Mike Woodson and his team put it all together?

This is ultimately the biggest question.

Everyone knows that Woodson and his team have to have a very good season, especially now that they have a balanced roster that everyone believes is in the top 25.

Woodson's first and third year teams had weaknesses and his second team was plagued by a key injury.

But in the 2024-25 season, there should be no excuses. This team should be able to compete at or near the top of the Big Ten and reach the Sweet 16.

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