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Indiana women’s basketball: Teri Moren’s case for National Coach of the Year

Indiana women’s basketball’s head coach is under consideration for coach of the year honors.

Alex Paul

Indiana women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren was named one of ten semifinalists for the 2022-23 Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year award just under a week ago.

Moren becoming a finalist for this and other National Coach of the Year awards would be a no-brainer. She has as respectable of a case to win it as just about any of her peers.

To illustrate this, we’ve decided to build her case for National Coach of the Year Honors:

Replacing three starters from a Sweet Sixteen run

Indiana didn’t suddenly appear on the scene this year. There was a long, arduous process for the program to get to the No. 1-seed line it currently occupies in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Last year’s season ended with a run to the Big Ten Tournament Championship and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen where Indiana met an absolute buzzsaw: UConn.

UConn is, without a doubt, the greatest program in the history of college basketball. The Huskies are an absolute force of nature and running right into that shouldn’t be reason to cast doubt on just how good last year’s team was.

That being said, here’s last year’s starting lineup followed by where they are now.

  • Nicole Cardaño-Hillary (Playing professionally with IDK Euskotren)
  • Ali Patberg (Indiana team & recruiting coordinator)
  • Grace Berger (Current starter, Honorable mention All-America)
  • Aleksa Gulbe (Playing professionally with Perfumerias Avenida)
  • Mackenzie Holmes (Current starter, AP First Team All-America)

That’s three starters that left for various reasons following the season, a tall order for any coach to work around heading into last season. The two that remained are among the best players in the country, but neither is a threat from the arc and you need five players to take the floor.

Losing three starters without being a program like UConn or South Carolina with nationally-touted five star recruits waiting in the wings would ordinarily mean a rebuild. That wasn’t on Moren’s agenda.

The offseason additions included 3-point specialist Sara Scalia from Minnesota, some depth in the frontcourt thanks to Alyssa Geary from Providence, home state hero and former five star Sydney Parrish from Oregon and freshman phenom Yarden Garzon from Israel.

That list includes just two regular starters from this season though, and that’s where coaching really comes into play.

Chloe Moore-McNeil is a junior and finally broke into the starting lineup this year. She is, perhaps, the greatest example of the player development that Moren has emphasized with Indiana’s program.

She’s worked to get to where she is and has taken a substantial leap each season, putting in the hours in practice and studying. It’s paid off, with Moore-McNeil helping to facilitate Indiana’s offense and earning the toughest assignments on defense.

Moren built one of the best lineups in the country with a star transfer, an incredible freshman and a player developed over time to become a star. That’s National Coach of the Year stuff.

Indiana won the toughest conference in the country outright

Simply put, the Big Ten is the best conference in women’s college basketball this season and Indiana was the league’s sole regular season champion.

Here’s how many teams from each conference are in the final AP Top-25 of the regular season:

Big Ten: 5

SEC: 7

Big East: 2

ACC: 4

PAC-12: 6

Big 12: 3

WCC: 1

Mountain West: 1

Of the Big Ten’s five teams, three are in the top-10 with Ohio State coming in at No. 12. Just two SEC and PAC-12 teams are in the top-10. Indiana also bested No. 24 Tennessee in Knoxville and No. 20 North Carolina at home early in the season.

Both the Big Ten and SEC sent seven schools to the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten’s average seed is 5.14. The SEC’s is 6.57. Indiana, Maryland and Iowa were all under consideration for No. 1-seeds in the NCAA Tournament, ending up with No. 1, No. 2 and another No. 2 seed, respectively.

Indiana had to go through tougher opponents and won the league outright.

Moren built a program

Indiana and basketball go hand-in-hand, but the women’s program didn’t exactly have an illustrious history when Moren arrived in Bloomington nine years ago.

Simply for the sake of example, new head coaches of Indiana men’s basketball have had decades of history and success to lean on as they go about building their versions of that program. It’s how Tom Crean rebuilt Indiana from the lowest of lows and how Archie Miller and Mike Woodson landed prized recruits.

Think of basketball name brands like Tennessee, UConn and Notre Dame. Those three programs have a ton of history, but Geno Auriemma is still at the helm of the program he’s built. New coaches at Tennessee and Notre Dame are handed the keys to a Ferrari compared to much of their competition.

Moren didn’t have that. Indiana was a sleeping giant, as athletic director Scott Dolson said recently. In a hoops-crazed state with historic programs at Notre Dame and Purdue, the right person could really get the ball rolling in Bloomington.

That ended up being Moren.

Sure, it’s been her program for nine years but at this point it’s fair to say that Moren is Indiana women’s basketball. She’s the one who has Indiana playing against the likes of UConn and Tennessee.

It took nine years, but she got the Hoosiers to a No. 1 seed.

There’s a very obvious counterargument worth mentioning here: Dawn Staley.

Staley has built an absolute juggernaut at South Carolina and the Gamecocks are the same force of nature that UConn has been for decades. It’s the start of a dynasty in Columbia as South Carolina plays title defense with an undefeated record in a Tournament that they are by all accounts favored to win.

She is incredible and won these awards last year for good, obvious reason.

The only point you can make against South Carolina? They were supposed to be this good. They brought back last season’s National Player of the Year and tore through the season.