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An NIT Championship would show meaningful progress for a program starving for it

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One Indiana basketball team is still playing— and they’re 40 minutes from hanging a banner.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Indiana vs Maryland Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

First, an editor’s note— or maybe it’s an apology:

We don’t do this enough.

It’s pretty transparently obvious that this blog has four distinct seasons: football, men’s basketball, baseball, and summer. We’ve had countless conversations “someone should write about the crazy successful non-revenue sports” and “someone should write about the women’s team” but those conversations aren’t articles. Indiana has the privilege of having multiple national champions across a variety of sports and we struggle to turn the spotlight on them for even a minute. That’s on us. We want to fix that. If you love a Hoosiers team that we’re not covering and can string 400 coherent words together, please get in touch.

For me, I prefer to write about what I know and I don’t want to do any team a disservice by sliding in and saying “here’s what I think after reading a Wikipedia article and watching three YouTube videos.” It comes down to a bandwidth issue, one we’re hoping to correct going forward.

Indiana has the chance to reach some relatively rarefied air on Saturday afternoon. A program that currently possesses five total NCAA Tournament appearances in their history to go along with a single conference championship and a single conference tournament title has the opportunity to add their own championship banner to the rafters in Assembly Hall.

Sure, it’s an NIT championship, but to anyone even casually looking at Indiana’s women’s team, it’s undeniable progress. For Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, two seniors who have started every game since they arrived in Bloomington, it’s a chance at immortality. They don’t need the validation that an NIT banner could provide, the record books will do that for them, but it would be a fitting send-off for the duo to forever have evidence of their stellar careers floating above the court in their home arena.

And their athletic director recognizes that.

You see, the women’s NIT isn’t even run by the NCAA like its male counterpart. It’s a pay-to-play tournament in which each game is bid on by the two participants in order to host and the Hoosiers have played each game of this postseason run in the familiar confines of Assembly Hall. That’s because Fred Glass won’t be outbid, and he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to keep his team in the best position to succeed in this tournament. That’s enough evidence that Indiana thinks this is a Big Deal— and, quite honestly, they should.

These opportunities don’t come around often. For the longest time, no one expected much of this Indiana team, but Teri Moren and co. have spent the past few seasons slowly increasing expectations, from securing the program’s first NCAA berth since 2002, followed by the program’s first tournament win in over three decades, and now finally a shot at some real hardware, not in the Big Dance, but in the next best thing.

It’s unrealistic to expect Indiana to be punching up at the country’s elite programs any time soon, but being the last team standing in any single-elimination postseason tournament is always worthy of celebration, even if the field is watered down. Hell, go look at the field for the 1940 NCAA Men’s Tournament, if you can be proud of that banner, you can assuredly go crazy if the women pull this off on Saturday.

Success is always relative and defined fluidly. If Connecticut is winning the women’s NIT, something has gone terribly wrong. But if Indiana does? It means the program is moving in the right direction. And for a team that has been spinning its wheels in an almost Indiana football-esque fashion, that’s worthy of commemoration.

The game is at 3 PM on Saturday, you can watch it on the CBS Sports Network, or better yet, attend it in person at Assembly Hall. It’s never too late to jump on a bandwagon. These ladies have earned a packed house with a full-throated crowd at their backs, let’s give them one.