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‘We’re on to bigger and better things’: Indiana women's basketball receives NCAA Tournament bid

After coming off a WNIT title in 2018, the Hoosiers were one of two teams to end their season with a win.

But coming into the 2018-19 season, the goal wasn’t another WNIT title. While it was great for IU to fill up Assembly Hall en route to the title, there was a bigger goal in mind: to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

With that goal in mind, Indiana started the season with a nearly unblemished record in the non-conference. Then in Big Ten play the Hoosiers started off hot before losing six of seven games at one point. But a late season rally in which they knocked off a top ranked Iowa team, beat their rival Purdue by over 20 points and another win in the Big Ten Tournament ultimately was enough to push them over the line.

When the ‘Debateable 8’ was released Sunday evening, Indiana saw its name. From there it was a waiting game until Monday that was ultimately cut short by a leak of the bracket. Nonetheless, the wait was worth it for the Hoosiers. They earned a 10-seed and are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

“I was still so nervous to watch it because in my eyes, anything could have happened,” IU forward Brenna Wise said. “We were obviously the last section of the bracket, and it took a great amount of patience to see our name show up on that board, but when it did – wow – what a relief for us.”

Prior to IU’s appearance in 2016, the Hoosiers hadn’t reached the Tournament since 2002. This year’s appearance marks just its sixth all-time appearance. What IU coach Teri Moren has been able to do in her five seasons to a program that has been mostly dormant in recent years has been impressive to watch.

And come Friday night, the Hoosiers will get the chance to travel all the way to the west coast and Eugene, Oregon to face off against the 10th-seeded Texas Longhorns. But for the Hoosiers, getting in the field of 64 teams was a major relief. They’ve spent the last two seasons sitting on the bubble, but Monday they finally got the chance to see their name on the right side.

“We worked really hard for that,” IU guard Ali Patberg said. “There’s been ups and downs this season, but we stayed the course and we’re ready to go compete.”

The Hoosiers were able to experience a deep postseason a season ago, but for Patberg and Wise, this is a chance for them to put their mark on a postseason tournament. But as for NCAA Tournament experience, that runs quite thin on this year’s team. The only player left from the 2016 team, who beat Georgia in the first round before falling to top seeded Notre Dame, is forward Kym Royster.

She sees it a bit like déjà vu when referencing the big wins they earned both this season and in 2016.

“I’ve been here before,” Royster said. “It takes me back and since we made it that first year, Coach Moren has emphasized the work it would take to get back to that point. To see it finally pay off in my last year is great to see.”

While this Tournament appearance is special and important for the program, it’s especially important for Portland, Oregon native Bendu Yeaney who will return to her home state for the first time in her collegiate basketball career.

“It’s going to be crazy,” Yeaney said. “My phone has been buzzing since the bracket was leaked and the whole bracket was even put out. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be back in my roots and to be able to play in the places I used to play in high school.”

Now even though the Hoosiers have reached their goal, it is not their end goal. Friday’s game vs. Texas at 7:00pm ET is an opportunity for another win. That’s all Indiana is focused on for the time being.

“We’re certainly happy with the results and what was revealed [Monday], but we’re certainly not content with just getting in,” Wise said. “We’re hungry, we’re still chasing the same end goal that all other 63 teams are chasing. So, we’re not just going to settle and say we’re content with getting in. We got more to be done."

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