This piece should've probably been written weeks ago. Just as you should've probably been paying attention weeks ago.
Tom Crean & the Indiana men's program isn't the only group of Bloomington-based basketballers that have been hot since the turn of the year. Quietly, Teri Moren's Indiana women's program has won eight of their last ten in Big Ten play, haven't dropped a home game all year, and are in the hunt for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis next week.
Oh, and yeah, they've got a better-than-not chance to land the program's first NCAA tournament bid since 2002.
Most of that can be chalked up to former star recruit and Indiana sophomore guard Tyra Buss. You're likely familiar with Buss' story. The Mt. Carmel, Illinois high school phenom attracts a crowd that would rival that of any Indiana men's player. She counts Indiana legend and fellow former Mt. Carmel alum Archie Dees among that group. Just a sophomore, she's as or more recognizable to Indiana fans as any player in program history.
And now, she's playing at a level to match her basketball celebrity status.
Not that she wasn't before, by any means, but Buss' play in recent weeks has gone to another level in recent weeks. She dropped 27 points in a win over Minnesota and twitter phenom Rachel Banham. Despite a road loss to Iowa that ended the Hoosiers five game win streak, her efforts were still enough to garner Big Ten Player Of The Week honors from the Big Ten Conference for the third straight week.
But Indiana's recent run of play isn't just all about Buss, either. The Hoosiers have other major names to know in Amanda Cahill and Alexis Gassion. Both are averaging double figures & contributing double-digit points per game this season. It's also validation for Teri Moren, who's had to live in the shadow of Curt Miller's sudden departure from the Indiana program two seasons ago. Miller, who many viewed to be a possible savior for a long downtrodden Indiana program, was hired in December to coach the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, becoming the first openly-gay man to coach a major pro sports team in the United States.
As with any sudden coaching change, the transition from Miller to Moren wasn't easy for this Indiana program. Miller's offense-first, play-defense-if-you-feel-like-it style ran counter to the defense-first mentality Moren had instilled up the road at Indiana State. Indiana saw four players transfer in the month following Moren's first season in Bloomington, including leading scorer Larryn Brooks, who took off for more-traditional women's basketball power Texas Tech. Those losses left some openly wondering if Indiana had rushed in hiring Moren so close to the start of the 2014-15 campaign, rather than keeping Miller's replacement in-house.
But, now, the Hoosiers are poised for a possible run into March , Moren is as good a candidate as any for Big Ten Coach of the Year, and Buss is turning into a bona fide superstar. If they're able to make the Big Dance, it'll just be the second time in school history that Indiana has placed a football team in a bowl game and both basketball teams in the NCAA tournament.
The Hoosiers take on Nebraska tonight at 8pm. It's not too late to hop on the bandwagon.