Dec 19, 2023; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson talks with guard Trey Galloway (32) in the first half against the Morehead State Eagles at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana University is a college basketball blueblood in name only these days. There is precious little recent evidence to back up that claim. The Hoosiers are hanging on traditions and memories from a distant past.

The 2023-24 season has been a stark reminder of how inconsequential this once proud program has become. Indiana (18-13, 10-10 Big Ten) could miss the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in eight years.

Adding to the grim reality, legendary coach Bob Knight died in November, the Hoosiers wore hideously off-brand uniforms last month, and their top recruit decommitted last week. It’s enough to make any candy-striped-warm-up-pants loving IU fan sob in his beer at Nick’s English Hut.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Mike Woodson was brought here in 2021 to be the guy who would unite and galvanize enthusiasts from across the state. The homegrown Hoosier is an Indianapolis native and played for Knight. His hire was generally received as a positive move in the right direction after the Archie Miller debacle.

So far, the best compliment you can give Woodson (62-39, 31-29 in Big Ten play, 2-2 NCAAs) is that he’s been better than his predecessor. That’s not good enough. Indiana hasn’t been a legitimate national championship contender for the better part of two decades. Nine schools have won at least three NCAA titles. Seven of them have been to at least one Final Four since 2015. The lone outlier is the Hoosiers, who were last there in 2002 and haven’t even reached the Elite Eight since that surprising Jared Jeffries-led squad.

Woodson will be back next season, but you get the feeling that the shot clock on his tenure is winding down. The 65-year-old returned to his alma mater without any previous college coaching experience. Sure, he had a veteran NBA track record, but coaching at this level is different from the pros in many ways. There’s a reason why most NBA types (Patrick Ewing at Georgetown, Chris Mullin at St. John’s, Isiah Thomas at Florida International) have failed. Even Juwan Howard, who had early success at Michigan, might be near the end.

Maybe Woodson is back because of his buyout. Maybe Woodson is back because the administration knows it won’t be able to get Florida Atlantic’s Dusty May, an Indiana alum and former student manager (College basketball expert Jeff Goodman predicts May will be the next Ohio State coach.) Or maybe Woodson is getting the respect and time it takes to build a program.

Regardless, major changes are required to get Indiana trending in the right direction. Staffing, recruiting, and strategy all have to be on the table.

Let’s take a look at the Hoosiers’ in-state archrival. Purdue has been one of the most consistent programs in the nation. Make fun of their postseason shortcoming all you want. The Boilermakers have had the same coach since 2005. Indiana has had five during that span. Matt Painter has developed players and adapted to the rapidly shifting world of college athletics. Have the Hoosiers?

Let’s look at roster construction. This is a team without shooters. In today’s game, you must be able to spread the floor. Indiana has made the fewest 3-point baskets (5.1 per game) in the Big Ten and is the third-worst at shooting beyond the arc (32.8%). Meanwhile, Purdue — helped by opponents double-teaming 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey — leads the nation in three-point accuracy (41.1 percent). That’s not the only problem. Injury-plagued point guard Xavier Johnson has missed time again, and without a reliable backup, the Hoosiers are third-worst in the league in turnover margin (minus-1.81).

The good news for Woodson is that the transfer portal makes it easier to revamp your roster quickly. However, with five-star forward Liam McNeeley asking for his release from his national letter of intent, Bloomington seems like a less desirable destination for players looking for a new home.

Woodson needs to figure out a way to adapt quickly. The Big Ten will be deeper in 2024-25 with the additions of UCLA, USC, Washington, and Oregon. The path to a conference championship will be tougher. The successful programs will use the transfer portal and name, image, and likeness to their advantage.

If Indiana doesn’t, it will continue to be just another program.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.