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Moren’s Hoosiers await NCAA Selection Show for third consecutive season

Indiana will anxiously sit through the NCAA Selection Show for the third straight year. (Photo: Mark Timko/HN)

INDIANAPOLIS — Every season is different. Two years ago, Teri Moren’s Indiana team came out of nowhere — roaring to a 12-6 Big Ten record with strong non-conference victories to boot, winning a NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 33 years. Last season carried the same promise, except IU was abruptly eliminated by Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and settled for an WNIT run.

This season, believe it or not, has its own story. An uninspiring early season effort somehow led to an eight-game winning streak down the stretch. And Moren was reluctant to admit it, but the Hoosiers ran out of gas in a 67-54 loss to No. 17 in the Big Ten quarterfinals. After all, Indiana was fresh off a four-overtime thriller against Michigan State to keep its NCAA hopes alive.

And so every year, the question is asked: how does Indiana’s resume compare to years past, and what would the argument be for the Hoosiers (17-14) to dance once more in the NCAA Tournament?

“I think the biggest thing is you look at our strength of schedule, and it’s eighth,” Moren argued. “But we have at least five top-50 wins, and this is a really good league, and it probably doesn’t get the respect that it deserves, and that’s always disappointing. And so I do think there’s an argument there for Indiana.”

Moren isn’t wrong, there’s certainly a case for the Hoosiers to be selected to their second NCAA tournament in three years. IU was as hot as any team in the country through January and February — in a conference guaranteed to send at least seven teams to the Big Dance. But women’s basketball bracketology is complicated, given its unusual nature of talented mid-major programs.

There’s only so many spots. Especially within a particular conference. Before the Big Ten Tournament started, ESPN listed Indiana and Michigan State in its “Next Four Out” grouping. Nebraska, meanwhile, was one of the first teams out. Minnesota, Purdue, and Rutgers were three of the final teams in.

So there’s six teams alone in the Big Ten vying for the remaining at-large bids that will be decided on Monday, March 12th. One can assume Michigan State is out. Purdue could be as well, as the Boilermakers lost in its first conference tournament game. That leaves Rutgers, Minnesota, and Nebraska as three Big Ten programs on the bubble expecting at-large bids. The Hoosiers were 3-0 against them.

Indiana’s resume is weaker than of years past, however — mostly due to an 0-4 record against power conference opponents outside of Big Ten play. Moren’s right, IU couldn’t have scheduled a more daunting slate — but consequently missed out on opportunities for a signature non-conference victory.

While anything is possible, it is likely IU will head to the WNIT for the second straight season — a tournament in which Indiana won three games a year ago before exiting in the quarterfinals. A WNIT appearance would also bring seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill back to Assembly Hall if the Hoosiers decided to host.

“The criteria is, once you go out and play people, and I know you’ve got to beat people, but we have done that,” Moren said. “We have gone out and structured our schedule for it to be difficult, our strength of schedule is eighth. That’s pretty, I would think, noteworthy.”

There is unfortunate irony in the Hoosiers’ season running out of gas against Maryland, given Indiana had been playing its most stable brand of basketball. After a rocky start to the Big Ten season, IU won eight of its final nine conference games. The Hoosiers’ surge lasted through four overtimes against Michigan State, and gave Moren’s team a chance against Maryland.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” Moren said. “Just like I said, I think we ran out of gas, and that’s not a built-in excuse, and I would never say that in front of my kids. But we looked like it. We looked like we were tired at the end.”

Teddy Bailey

I am a senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, studying in IU’s School of Global and International Studies. Prior to joining The Hoosier Network, I spent two seasons covering IU Athletics for the Indianapolis Star alongside Zach Osterman after becoming the Sports Editor of the Indiana Daily Student as a freshman. While I found myself studying Italian in Florence this past summer, I interned with The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2017 — my hometown paper. In case you want to talk cheesesteaks or the Philadelphia 76ers, you can find me on Twitter, @ByTeddyBailey.

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