After a month or so of rest and reflection, cq is back to debrief what was an absolutely wild season of Indiana women’s basketball.
The Hoosiers were the most fun team to watch on campus all year long and ended up finishing the campaign with six All-Big Ten honorees, the Big Ten Coach of the Year, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, a first team All-American, the National Coach of the Year, a #1 seed in March Madness, and a first round WNBA draft pick. That’s a ton of hardware!
Also, be sure to take a look at the preseason roundtable we used to make predictions all the way back in October. Spoiler alert: We were right. A lot.
Would you say Indiana’s season was a success?
LCN: I mean, I would say so. Indiana went into the season having to replace three starters and won the Big Ten with a freshman, a transfer and a new star replacing them. They won the Big Ten title, literally a championship. The end was, uh, not ideal but a lot caught up to them there and it’s just more fuel for the fire next year.
Colin: Yeah, but I will qualify it so as to avoid sounding like a Purdue men’s fan. This was a successful season in so far as it sets the high water mark for what the team can accomplish in the regular under Teri Moren. We already knew she would finish her career owning a slew of program records, so this year expedited that process and proved further that she can take the team to new heights. That said, I think they ran out of steam and under-achieved there at the end. I would have gladly taken a regular season loss to Ohio State or another loss to Iowa if it meant a longer postseason run.
Miles: Oh without a doubt. Indiana women’s basketball just had its greatest season ever. First Big Ten title in 40 years. Program-defining victories over Iowa and Ohio State. Attendance record after attendance record shattered. 2022-23 was a fantastic year for women’s basketball as a whole, and despite not walking away with the National Title, I think Indiana is the team that demonstrates that fact best. This was their year.
Who was Indiana’s season MVP?
LCN: Take: It was honestly Chloe Moore-McNeil. She had to step up when Grace Berger went down with an injury and was perfectly able to guide the team on offense while facing the toughest assignments on defense. Moore-McNeil retained some of those responsibilities when Berger returned, ultimately making the team even better than it was prior to her injury.
Colin: I’m going Grace Berger, but I think mostly for sentimental reasons, as Holmes was probably more crucial to the team’s success this season. The best statistical argument I can make is the way Berger has changed her game to fit better with the stars around her, jumping to a career-high 5.8 assists from 4.7 last year. Despite Indiana finding ways to win without her, Berger is still the player from last year’s team that I would want taking the last shot with the game on the line - especially because she would find a way to get it to her costars in Holmes or Garzon if the situation demanded it.
Miles: It’s Mackenzie Holmes. Holmes received first team All-American, first team All-Big Ten, and Big Ten All-Defensive team honors in addition to being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She finished second in the country in field goal percentage (68.04) and seventh in points per game (22.3) and did so while staying healthy, starting 31 of Indiana’s 32 games. Holmes’s prowess on both ends of the floor helped the Hoosiers finish the regular season with the Big Ten’s top-rated defense and second-best offense.
Who was Indiana’s most improved player?
LCN: This is also Chloe Moore-McNeil. She was a bench contributor during Indiana’s 2021-22 season that ultimately ended in the Sweet Sixteen and stepped up throughout this past season to lift the team around her. She took on Nicole Cardaño-Hillary’s assignments on defense, pretty big shoes to fill, and performed admirably. She figures to improve even further going into next year.
Colin: I don’t know if this counts since she was on Oregon last year, but I think Sydney Parrish showed a lot more as a scorer than I would have anticipated based on her role on this year’s team and her prior stats with the Ducks. Parrish started fewer games at Indiana than she did at Oregon, but played five more minutes per game, during which she brought her scoring average up almost four full points. She did so efficiently, too, improving her shooting %, 3-point shooting %, and assist rate in her first year in Bloomington. I knew she was talented when she transferred, but I wasn’t expecting her to be the most aggressive player in the backcourt alongside Grace Berger.
Miles: I’m going to slightly tweak the question and give you the player who I think most greatly exceeded expectations this season. It’s Yarden Garzon. Prior to the season, there was buzz around Garzon being the “next big thing,” but due to lack of film and the fact that she came over from Israel there was no clear cut book out on her. Even the most cautiously-optimistic of us didn’t see this season coming. Garzon has been awesome since the jump. She burst onto the scene in the season opener against Vermont, scoring a game-high 19 points by way of an unconscious 5-8 shooting performance from deep. It was insane. She quickly became Indiana’s most consistent three-point shooter and finished the regular season with the fourth-best conversion rate (45.75) in all of Division I. She’s more than just a sharpshooter though, Garzon was third on the team in rebounds (5.3) and assists (3.0) per game and earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention as a result. Garzon’s freshman year will best be remembered by the pair of huge three pointers she hit in the fourth quarter against Miami. Indiana of course lost that Round of 32 matchup but with three more years of Garzon the Hoosiers will be back and then some.
How can Indiana move forward without Grace Berger?
LCN: You can’t. Teri Moren herself said that she knew Berger would be the most skilled player she’d ever coach from the moment she first saw her play. Berger was simply too good with her passing, otherworldly on-court awareness and of course the midrange shot. Not to mention all that she meant off the court and as arguably the best player in program history. She can’t be replaced, I don’t think anyone fills that role and instead things just look a bit different next year on offense.
Colin: By committee, on and off the court. No single player is going to be able to come in and replace her production or leadership, so Indiana fans should not expect as much. We know from the time she missed with a knee injury that Moren has a winning system and winning players, so it may not be a huge drop off. Moore-McNeil, Sara Scalia, Yarden Garzon, and Sydney Parrish bring a lot of talent and experience to the roster, but it’s simply not going to come together in the exact same way as it did with Berger running the offense. I hinted at it above in my case for making her MVP, but looking at her stats over her career and you can see just how much she meant to Indiana’s success over that period. She was able to be the scorer, passer, shooter, and initiator depending on who she was on the court with and what Moren needed from her in that moment. I don’t think we’ll see anyone like that in a long time.
Miles: From a cultural significance standpoint, Indiana will never be able to properly replace Grace Berger. She’s the most important player in program history, they just cannot replace what she means when it comes to culture and team image. Not happening. Recreating her on the floor will be tough, but it’s not impossible. I think we got a good taste of what next season will look like during the six weeks or so Berger missed with an injury during the late non-con/early conference portion of the schedule. Chloe Moore-McNeil is more than capable of running the point and will have another capable guard alongside her in the backcourt. We don’t know who that guard may be (Sara Scalia, Lex Bargesser, or a newcomer), but given the fact that Indiana’s returning four starters I’m sure they’ll do just fine. No matter how hard they look, however, the Hoosiers will never find someone as automatic in the midrange as Grace Berger.
What’s Indiana’s biggest offseason need?
LCN: Depth in the frontcourt. Indiana could use a true point guard, but Indiana’s forward depth has thinned out significantly with Kiandra Browne and Mona Zaric opting to enter the portal. They could use an Alyssa Geary-esque transfer to help take some weight off of the shoulders of Mackenzie Holmes and Lilly Meister.
Colin: I will agree with Miles and say development, but with a focus on the starters rather than the depth. Players like Scalia and Garzon, who had good seasons contributing to Indiana’s success as role players will now be tasked with replacing Grace Berger’s production and presence. Scalia will need to be closer to 17.5 ppg on 41.3% 3-point range like she was in her last season at Minnesota. Garzon is probably not going to be able to finish games with just a handful of 3-point attempts, like she could last season when other players were going off. We know the talent is there, but Moren is going to have to get this group playing with the right level of confidence and chemistry to see them succeed on the court.
Miles: Indiana’s biggest need is development. Their depth certainly improved between 2021-22 and 2022-23, but only seven Hoosiers saw extended playing time in 20+ games. Lilly Meister, Henna Sandvik, and Lexus Bargesser all showed promise when on the floor but will need to become more consistent if Indiana wants to continue its recent string of success. A ready to play Lenée Beaumont or Jules LaMendola could really help in this regard, too.
What are Indiana’s “too early” strengths and weaknesses for next year?
LCN: Indiana has the best post player in the country in Mackenzie Holmes. When in doubt, find her down low and it’s much more likely than not that the Hoosiers are getting two points out of it, maybe even more if she’s fouled. A weakness is that she needs a bit more help at that spot, but development from Lilly Meister and a potential portal addition could solve that issue. The Hoosiers also have the reigning AP National Coach of the Year running the show, so I’d say that’s definitely something!
Colin: I agree with Miles and think Indiana’s strength will be its coaching and experience, plus the fact that this team has now spent a little more time in the national spotlight. It’s one of those things that has potential to turn into a weakness, especially if the expectations are set too high coming in, but at the end of the day, every returning player will have played on national TV in front of sold-out crowds. I also agree that the biggest weakness will be the strength of the conference as a whole and hope that Moren can find some balance between winning in the regular season and winning in March. Every win felt so important and consequential with all the history on the line last year, so I can’t fault them for that. I just think every team with postseason aspirations will have to skillfully navigate a regular season full of Final Four caliber teams like Ohio State, Maryland, and Iowa.
Miles: Indiana’s biggest strengths are Mackenzie Holmes and Teri Moren. They’re both coming off of career-defining seasons (Holmes First Team AA + B1G DPOY, Moren National COY) and have created a winning culture. That’s not stopping anytime soon. In terms of weaknesses, the first thing that comes to mind is that they’ll again be fighting for a league title against insane talents like Caitlin Clark and Cotie McMahon. The Big Ten as a whole is currently the best conference in the country... there’s no such thing as an easy victory on this circuit.