On March 31, 2018 the Indiana women’s basketball team ended its season with a win. Behind program cornerstones Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, the Hoosiers took down Virginia Tech 65-57.
The reported crowd of over 13,000 people at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall roared, a trophy was lifted and nets were cut down. A program that hadn’t accomplished much in recent memory was able to hang a banner. The WNIT title seemed like a peak — the perfect ending to the careers of a pair of program legends.
Then, coach Teri Moren helped the Hoosiers get better.
Buss and Cahill were replaced by transfers Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise, top 50 recruit Grace Berger entered the fold and Jaelynn Penn — a five-star recruit out of Kentucky the year prior — made a jump. The Hoosiers made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and took down a ranked Texas team in their 7/10 matchup before falling to Sabrina Ionescu’s Oregon Ducks in the second round.
It was IU’s second NCAA Tournament win in four years after going 33 years without one.
Moren returned nearly her entire team this past winter, save for post player Kym Royster. The Hoosiers added not one, but two top-50 recruits and proceeded to have the program’s best season since 1975, going 24-8 and finishing fourth in the Big Ten.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, they didn’t get to cap off that season with the NCAA Tournament berth they were all but assured to receive as roughly a four- or five-seed.
This offseason, there’s been another departure of talent. Wise graduated, while uber-athlete Bendu Yeaney, former five-star recruit Jorie Allen and former Indiana All-Star Shaila Beeler are all transferring.
There will also be another influx of talent, starting with Notre Dame transfer and former McDonald’s All-American Danielle Patterson. After sitting out last season, Patterson will suit up for the Hoosiers in 2020-21, and her talent and experience with the Fighting Irish could make her an instant impact player for IU.
There’s also the potential for former Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Nicole Cardaño-Hillary to take the floor next year, depending on the NCAA’s decision on a potential one-time transfer rule. Tack on a commitment from two-time Class A Tennessee Miss Basketball Chloe Moore-McNeil and the Hoosiers may continue their steady climb to national relevance.
Even if Cardaño-Hillary has to sit out next season, the Hoosiers will still feature Patberg and Patterson, as well as Penn, Berger and former five-star recruit Mackenzie Holmes, a quintet the likes of which the program may have never seen before.
After finishing the season in both major national women’s basketball polls — IU was ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press and No. 22 in the USA Today/WBCA Coaches poll — for the first time in program history, it feels like nothing is out of reach for the Hoosiers. Their first Big Ten title since the conference’s first season of women’s basketball back in 1982-83? Sure. NCAA Tournament games in Bloomington? It nearly happened this year. The program’s first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance? Why not?
We’ve entered a new age of IU women’s basketball, one where top talent wants to play in Bloomington, whether they come from the high school ranks or the transfer portal. It’s the kind of new era where the Hoosiers don’t only flirt with the occasional upset and live on the NCAA Tournament bubble, they take down ranked teams and topple national powers like South Carolina.
It’s a new age where anything is possible.