Trayce Jackson-Davis' Return Makes Indiana a Big Ten Title Favorite

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana v Wyoming
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana v Wyoming / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Mike Woodson and the Indiana Hoosiers got great news on Friday as All-Big Ten forward Trayce Jackson-Davis announced his return to Bloomington. Jackson-Davis had been going through the NBA draft process, but opted to pull his name out and head back to college for his senior season. That decision has propelled the Hoosiers from intriguing team to watch, to Big Ten title contender.

Jackson-Davis led Indiana in points (18.3), rebounds (8.1), blocks (2.3) and minutes (32.3) per game last season as a junior. He was the focal point of the team's offense and everything worked off of what he did in the paint. While he certainly needs to expand his game and improve as shooter, there are few better post players in college basketball.

Jackson-Davis exploded during the last five games of the season, helping Indiana reach the NCAA Tournament with several monster performances in the Big Ten Tournament and by dropping 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds against Wyoming in the First Four. He averaged 23.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 35.4 minutes per game over the season's final five contests.

When he committed to Archie Miller as part of the 2019 recruiting class, few thought Jackson-Davis would be on campus for four years. A top 30 recruit out of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana and the son of former NBA player Dale Davis, he was expected to bolt for the professional ranks after a season or two. While he's put up great numbers in college, his game has yet to consistently expand beyond the paint. The former McDonald's All-American has racked up plenty of accolades at Indiana despite being somewhat limited offensively. He was named third-team All-Big Ten as a freshman in 2020, was a third-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten in 2021, and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2022. He'll almost certainly enter the 2022-23 season as a preseason All-American and a Big Ten Player of the Year favorite.

By returning, Jackson-Davis has a chance to vault up the all-time Indiana statistical leaderboards. He'll almost certainly finish in the top 10 in points scored all-time. He's at 1,588 currently and with a solid season should become the sixth 2,000-point scorer in school history. He's already ninth on IU's all-time rebound list (797) and should finish as the fourth player in school history to reach 1,000-rebounds. If he accomplishes those feats he'd been the first 2,000-point, 1,000-rebound player in program history. In short, he'd enter legend status.

With Jackson-Davis back, Indiana has a lot to build on. Point guard Xavier Johnson and forward Race Thompson both opted to return for the 2022-23 season, giving the Hoosiers their three top scorers back -- and also their three best players. Additionally, shooter Miller Kopp, uber-talented sophomore guard Tamar Bates, kinetic wing Trey Galloway and high-upside forward Jordan Geronimo will all return.

While bringing a bunch of players back from a 21-14 team may not seem that exciting, Indiana is also adding a ton of talent via a top 10 recruiting class. Two five-star talents will be joining the roster in combo guard Jalen Hood-Schifino and forward Malik Reneau. Hood-Schifino and Reneau were teammates at basketball factory Montverde Academy and already have excellent chemistry. Additionally, the Hoosiers will welcome four-star forward Kaleb Banks and three-star guard CJ Gunn.

Hood-Schifino and Reneau will help immediately, while Banks and Gunn will be options to assist what was at times a weak second unit last season. No matter how the new players mix with the returners, Indiana will boast as much talent as it's had since the 2012-13 season when Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo led the Hoosiers to a Big Ten title.

Mike Woodson's first campaign at Indiana was a bit of a rollercoaster that seemed to smooth out in March. Now he's got the kind of talent to match the system he wants to play. If Woodson and his staff can deploy this roster properly, the Hoosiers should be dangerous this season.