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Indiana basketball: Teri Moren’s offseason moves deserve recognition

Indiana has made positive moves and developments in just about every offseason under Moren.

Iowa v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Indiana women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren was named AP National Coach of the Year for her team’s performance in the 2022-23 season which resulted in a Big Ten Championship trophy.

But the work for those titles began long before the Hoosiers took the court in 2022. Moren does some of her best work in the offseason, when coverage winds down. It’s not exclusive to this past year either.

After an impressive 24-8 season with a 13-5 record in the conference came to an abrupt end in 2020, the Hoosiers were looking at a future without starter and two-time team captain Brenna Wise.

The core was in place though, the team’s immediate future was in the hands of Grace Berger, Ali Patberg, Mackenzie Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe. There was room though, and Moren found the perfect fit.

George Mason all-time leading scorer and 2018-19 Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Nicole Cardaño-Hillary entered the transfer portal and ended up in Bloomington. She ended up as a starter as the season went on, her tenacious defense and ability to run the offense helped guide the Hoosiers all the way to the Elite Eight.

Indiana was dominant in Big Ten play in 2020-21, going 16-2 and one way away from a conference title.

The next season proved to be rough sledding, with the further emergence of Caitlin Clark’s Iowa and a lengthy pause in play throughout January. An 11-5 conference record was good for fifth in the conference with every team above the Hoosiers finishing with four losses.

That didn’t stop Indiana from running all the way to the Big Ten Tournament Championship, knocking off No. 1-seed Ohio State in the process before running, yet again, into the Hawkeyes.

The missing piece was obvious: 3-point shooting. Indiana was able to limit that deficiency thanks to the third best defense in the conference, allowing just 61.8 points per game and 29.3% from the arc. They just couldn’t keep up with teams like Iowa and, ultimately, UConn in the tournament.

Shooting 33% as a team, making the third-least 3-pointers in the conference and having the best individual shooter, Cardaño-Hillary, hitting at 35% wasn’t going to cut it. Indiana needed to provide space for Holmes in the post while scoring enough to keep up with the Iowas of the world.

So Moren got to work.

Help was already on the way, incoming freshman Yarden Garzon was a vaunted threat from the perimeter out of Israel. That alone would be enough to earn her a starting spot. But Indiana wasn’t done.

Looking to the portal, the Hoosiers added Minnesota sharpshooter Sara Scalia, who’d hit 41.3% from the arc the previous season. She scored 26 points off of seven 3-pointers at Assembly Hall against Indiana too. Then it was Sydney Parrish, an Indiana high school legend who’d spent the first two years of her career at Oregon.

It wasn’t all the portal either, Chloe Moore-McNeil took a small jump off of more 3-point attempts as a starter, going from hitting 31% in 21-22 to 33.7% in 22-23.

The Hoosiers ultimately shot 36.9% from the arc in 22-23, going from the sixth highest scoring offense in the conference at 71.3 points per game to the second with 80.9. All that space to operate resulted in 22.3 points per game and First Team All-America nod for Holmes.

Moren identified a weakness, prioritized fixing it and promptly won the conference. The Hoosiers had to replace three starters (Gulbe, Patberg and Cardaño-Hillary) and managed to improve their win total as one of the best teams in the country.

There were multiple ways for Indiana to win on offense from allowing Holmes to dominate the paint and, when she was getting double or triple-teamed, firing away from the arc with open shooters.

All that shooting ability, and Holmes, will return next year with two freshmen, Jules LaMendola and Lenee Beaumont bringing some 3-point potential as well.

This offseason, Indiana’s biggest need was likely in the frontcourt. Holmes projects to be as much of a threat as ever and Lilly Meister will likely take a leap, but the team lost Kiandra Browne to the transfer portal.

So, stop me if this sounds at all familiar, but Indiana went out and signed an award-winning player from a mid-major conference. Enter Sharnecce Currie-Jelks.

Currie-Jelks was an absolute force at UT-Martin, leading the team with 15.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and a block per game to win the Ohio Valley Conference’s Freshman of the Year award.

She has three years of eligibility remaining and could take an even greater leap after working with associate head coach Rhet Wierzba, who’s developed Indiana’s forwards for years now.

This offseason presented a new challenge: the departure of associate head coach Glenn Box for the head coaching job at Miami. The duo of Wierzba and Box have been with Moren since she arrived in Bloomington.

She made a splash, adding former Kentucky assistant Amber Smith. Smith has developed multiple All-SEC guards during her time in Lexington including Rhyne Howard, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.

On paper, these moves look great. We’ll have to wait and see how they ultimately pan out, but Moren has earned faith in her decision-making abilities.