Indiana women’s basketball is no longer a program on the rise. Winning is an expectation now, and the Hoosiers hope to carry that into next season.
But, for now, let’s talk about what went right (and a bit of what went wrong) for the Hoosiers in 2021-22.
What went particularly well for Indiana last season?
The fact of the matter is that there was a lot that went wrong for Indiana last season. The Hoosiers lost their leading scorer in Mackenzie Holmes to a long-term injury, there was a COVID pause and there were points early in the season when the bench seemed quite shallow. I mention all of this because Indiana didn’t just tread water during these difficult times, but overcame them to forge success. Players up and down the roster stepped up to negate Holmes’ absence, the team found new ways to win on a consistent basis and Indiana’s bench developed with haste. Chloe Moore-McNeil developed into a viable starter, Kiandra Browne stepped up defensively and the rest of the roster willed itself to victory. Improvise, adapt, overcome.
From a pure “luck of the draw” standpoint, I don’t think all that much went well for Indiana last season. The Mackenzie Holmes injury hurt. The COVID pauses and schedule volatility made getting into a rhythm difficult. Having to play on the Thursday of the Big Ten Tournament put serving as an NCAA Tournament host in question. This season threw a lot at the Hoosiers, but they responded each time. They went 6-2 without Holmes, saw Chloe Moore-McNeil blossom off the bench during the X game in Y day stretches, and gave C*itlin Clark a Game in the B1G Final. Indiana got up off the mat in 2021-22 exceptionally well.
Considering all the things that didn’t go well, namely the Holmes injury, it’s really significant that Moren kept the program from taking a step back or really regressing in any noticeable way. I think especially after how spectacularly poorly the football season went and how scary the men’s basketball season got at points, it was easy to feel like Indiana was a bit cursed in general. The Holmes injury really set the stage for the same to be true of the 2021-22 women’s basketball season, but Moren kept the upward trajectory going with the program’s first two wins against Maryland and impressive runs in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. This group was able to prove that the program is built on a solid foundation and can handle adversity that would cripple lesser teams, an encouraging sign for future Moren squads.
Where did Indiana have room for improvement?
As Miles said below, Indiana will need to work on rebounding if it’s looking for further success this upcoming season. This is perhaps where they missed Mackenzie Holmes the most, few other Hoosiers were able to counter the conference’s other bigs. I’d expect head coach Teri Moren to emphasize this in practice and in play design prior to next season.
Rebounding and overall paint presence. The Hoosiers were 12th in the Big Ten in rebounding, and you can only play the “Mackenzie Holmes was hurt” card so many times. Whether it was Michigan’s Naz Hillmon or Iowa’s Monika Czinano, elite Bigs were able to find success against the Hoosiers defense. The transfer addition of Providence’s Alyssa Geary should help limit opposing Forwards and Centers next year.
As the other two have observed, rebounding is the statistical category for which the Hoosiers could most stand to improve relative to the rest of the conference. Just to change things up though, I’m going to call it lack of depth at the forward spot. After Holmes went down, Moren relied almost exclusively on Kiandra Browne, who had played 8 minutes per game last season, to replace Mackenzie Holmes 28.5 minutes per game. Maybe a more balanced roster minimizes the harm of losing a Holmes-type player for a stretch and keeps the rebounding numbers closer to where they should be.
Who was Indiana’s team MVP?
Need a midrange shot? Berger had you covered. While she wasn’t the best from 3-point range last season, Berger can handle the ball with the best of them, stealing ankles and finding open looks from the field with ease. Berger has a presence to her, she’s competitive and unwilling to sit by and accept defeat. That mentality helped power the Hoosiers to all those wins last season, and she lifted the team around her in the process.
I’m going with Grace Berger here. She led the team in minutes, scoring, assists, and elbows taken to the face. Berger’s “F it, we ball” attitude became the deciding factor in a number of contests, most notably the Round of 32 matchup with Princeton. She’s a certified bucket getter that all basketball fans should try to tune in to.
Grace Berger was maybe my favorite Indiana athlete to watch last season, so I will have to agree with my co-bloggers here. I don’t know if anything exemplifies it better than Berger going into Mackey, missing two of her fellow starters, and leading the team with 24 points in an extremely hostile environment. Patberg went on to hit the big shot for the Hoosiers, but it was Berger’s fearless approach to that game that kept Indiana in it and really exemplified the team’s attitude this season.
What grade would you give the Hoosiers for the 2021-22 season?
An A. There were issues here and there, but Indiana overcame many to go on a winning campaign and a run in the tournament. This isn’t something to build off of or a foundation, winning is just in this program’s DNA now.
Like many new-wave IU Professors, I believe in effort-based grading. IU WBB rolled with the punches all year long and never quit. A.
An A, mostly for reasons stated in my first answer. They remain among the most consistent, reliably successful athletic programs at Indiana University.