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In-state women’s college basketball and the bright future on the horizon

Indiana has a chance to become a hotbed of women’s college basketball. Here’s why.

Syndication: The Herald-Times Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

You know about Teri Moren and the Indiana Hoosiers.

How Moren arrived at a program known for sporadic bursts of success, built something consistent and now reloads to maintain the Hoosiers’ winning ways. We’ve posted about it here on the blog and there’s been good coverage elsewhere.

But around the state, other former national powers are trending in the right direction to compete for NCAA Tournament spots and even deep runs like the one Indiana just experienced.

I’d hesitate to say that Notre Dame has had a “down” past few years as the Irish are recent national champions and were known for deep tournament runs under legendary head coach Muffet McGraw.

In hiring Niele Ivey, a former All-American point guard who played for McGraw and won a national championship as a member of the Irish’s 2000-01 team, Notre Dame looks as though it will maintain its powerhouse status.

Ivey led the Irish all the way to the Sweet Sixteen this past season, playing at the same Bridgeport regional as Moren and the Hoosiers.

Not unlike Notre Dame, Purdue’s women’s basketball program is rich with history and tradition. The Boilermakers raised a national championship banner of their own in 1999 and lured former Indiana head coach Sharon Versyp, a Purdue alum, to West Lafayette in 2006.

That first season, ultimately Versyp’s most successful at Purdue, ended with a trip to the Elite Eight.

Versyp ended her career as Purdue’s all-time winningest head coach, with the Boilermakers heading into the 2021-22 season under the impression that it would be Versyp’s final year as coach.

The program had announced as much and brought in another program alum, Katie Gearlds, as the Boilermakers’ coach-in-waiting.

Following reporting from the Journal & Courier that Versyp had created a toxic environment at Purdue, the end of the Versyp era was hastened and Gearlds suddenly found herself at the reins of the Boilermakers’ program just 47 days before the season was scheduled to begin.

The result? A WNIT berth, Purdue’s first postseason appearance since 2018, a record-setting 3-point shooting performance from up and down the roster and outstanding perimeter defense with opponents knocking down just 27.6% of their 3-point attempts.

Purdue became a team that simply wouldn’t give up under Gearlds, giving Indiana problems in both of their meetings this past season.

We reached out to Travis Miller, site manager of our Boilermaker counterpart site at Hammer & Rails, for his take on Gearlds:

“After Versyp torpedoed a once great program I am all-in on Gearlds. She really had that team playing hard last year and it was the first time in a very long time it felt like Purdue was actually a danger to ranked teams. It just ran out of gas in a lot of games like the home loss to Indiana. I expect a step forward this year with a couple top 100 recruits incoming and a top tier international player. Unlike the men’s team, Purdue women’s basketball has actually been a national power. I remember the era of three Final Fours in seven years and the 1999 Natty. We ran the Big Ten for most of two decades before Versyp started the decline. I felt year 1 was a big turnaround and I am excited to see where Gearlds goes from here.”

If recruiting and player development follows Gearlds’ on-court product, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t, the Boilermakers will in all likelihood return to Big Ten title contention in the coming years.

With three programs at Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame positioning themselves to become national powers, it’d be in the best interest of all three programs and high school basketball as a whole around the state to maximize interest in the women’s game and drive development at the high school level.

Games between Indiana and Purdue, be they in Assembly Hall or Mackey Arena, are always super intense both on the court and in the stands, with Barn Burner bragging rights going to the winner.

While Moren’s team currently boasts quite the winning streak over Purdue, Gearlds has positioned the Boilermakers for a far more competitive series moving forward.

Advertise the heck out of these matchups, both around Bloomington/West Lafayette and the state as a whole in hubs like Indianapolis. Get as many eyes on these games as possible because it’s about to get interesting.

Notre Dame being in the ACC makes things a bit tricky, but scheduling non-conference matchups with Indiana or Purdue is possible. A dream scenario would be something like the Crossroads Classic, but for the women’s side with teams that are actually competitive/compelling.

Invite high school coaches/teams to these games, really get the energy and enthusiasm flowing throughout the state.

You too can be automatic from midrange like Grace Berger or leave a legacy like Ali Patberg.

You can be part of a team that raises banners for years to come.

You can play for these coaches, all of them Indiana legends.

An opportunity like this, with so much high-level basketball just on the horizon, is too good to pass up for the good of the game as a whole.