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Indiana players line up for the alma mater after Indiana's win over Maryland on March 3, 2024. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)
Indiana players line up for the alma mater after Indiana's win over Maryland on March 3, 2024. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)

Indiana heads into March optimistic about a deep run 

After an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament, IU has used its time off to get healthy

March Madness is upon us. The NCAA Tournament is here, and expectations are once again high for Indiana women’s basketball. The team was named one of the top 16 seeds in the tourney, meaning they get to host the first and second round at Assembly Hall. The fourth-seeded Hoosiers are set to face 13 seed Fairfield for their first-round matchup at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in Bloomington.

Indiana is coming off a sluggish loss. The Hoosiers were the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament and were upset in the quarterfinals by Michigan. The final score was 69-56, but it was a tale of two halves as the Wolverines outscored the Hoosiers 48-21 in the second half.  

Injuries were a major storyline in the loss. Mackenzie Holmes and Lilly Meister played after injuring themselves in the regular-season finale against Maryland. Holmes did not come into the game until the fourth quarter against Michigan and only played five minutes. 

In the time since the loss, the Hoosiers have been on campus getting ready for the round of 64 because of an early exit and the 12 days off since their last game. Head coach Teri Moren said the team has used the time resting up and getting healthy before resuming play. 

“We had some other kids that have been a little bit dinged up,” Moren said. “So, this was a great week to rest a lot, although we did practice, but we really shortened it.” 

If Indiana uses its newfound health, this experienced Hoosiers team could make some noise in the tournament with a deep run. But, Indiana will first need to get through the talented teams coming to Bloomington. 

In the second round, Indiana could face Oklahoma or Florida Gulf Coast. If the Sooners come to town, it could pose a threat to IU making its third Sweet Sixteen in program history as Oklahoma was the Big 12 regular-seasons champ. The Sooners swept Texas, who’s a No. 1 seed, this season to capture their second straight and first outright conference title since 2009. 

If the Eagles advance, Indiana will have to face a team that is making its seventh straight tournament appearance. Florida Gulf Coast is the definition of havoc in the 5-12 seed matchup, as they have upset their last two opponents as a 12 seed. Three of the Eagles’ four NCAA wins have occurred as a 12 seed. 

Regardless of the other teams coming to Bloomington, Indiana has to get past its first opponent, the Fairfield Stags.  

The Stags enter the matchup with the Hoosiers on fire. They have won 29 games in a row and stand 31-1 on the season. They captured the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular-season and conference tournament titles. They also boasted power-five wins over Rutgers and St. Johns and recently became ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in school history.  

Scoring defense is what has guided Fairfield to their 31 wins. They only give up 54.1 points per game, which is fifth in the nation. Indiana will have to use its shot-making ability to move past the Stags along with stopping Janelle Brown, the MAAC Player of the Year who gets it done on both sides of the ball.  

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Teri Moren speaks to her team during Indiana's loss to Iowa on Jan. 13, 2024. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)

Indiana has shown it is capable of being competitive and playing with anyone, but Moren knows there will be challenges regardless of the opponent because it is March. 

“You get into this tournament, it’s gonna be hard,” Moren said. “There’s gonna be challenges no matter who you play, whether it’s first round, second round and so forth.” 

This will be the third meeting ever between the programs – the series is split, but Indiana dominated the most recent meeting in 2021. The Hoosiers and the Stags will tip off at 1:30 pm Saturday. 

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