You’re forgiven if you didn’t see this coming.
When not one, but two program all-timers graduated after a magical 2018 WNIT championship run, it was reasonable to believe that the Indiana women’s basketball team might take a step back. Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill were that important.
Here we are eight months later, and IU head basketball coach Teri Moren has the Hoosiers off to a 6-0 start — the best start to a season for the fifth year program leader.
How is this possible? While we don’t always have the patience to allow coaches to build-up a program, that’s exactly what Moren has been doing. Before our very eyes, Indiana women’s basketball is transitioning from a team of a couple beloved stars, to a deep roster full of top recruits that looks primed to be a Big Ten contender for years to come.
Of course we are only six games into the season. It is premature to be making bold proclamations about the direction of a program that has done very little in its history. You have to go all the way back to the beginning to find a time when IU women’s basketball was a thing.
But if you are sensing that things feel different this year, you are right. After a 4-4 start last year, and a 4-3 start the year before, this year’s edition of the Hoosiers seem to have things rolling from the jump.
A VERSATILE AND DEEPER ROSTER
The thing that stands out about Indiana thus far is the number of different players that make significant contributions.
The Hoosiers have three different players scoring in double figures, and eight different players averaging more than 16 minutes a contest. With long guards, multiple talented post players, and versatile talent that can play inside and out, Indiana can beat teams in a lot of different ways, with little fall-off when it goes to the bench.
Leading the way is transfer Ali Patberg. The Columbus, Indiana native and former Miss Basketball came to IU from Notre Dame. After sitting out a year, she is leading the Hoosiers in points (17.8), rebounds (6.8) and assists (4.7).
Another transfer, Brenna Wise is right behind Patberg in scoring (14.7) and rebounds (6.7).
Rounding out the starting lineup are names you remember from last year — Jaelynn Penn, Bendu Yeaney and Kym Royster. All three were critical to last year’s WNIT title and along with Patberg and Wise, create a formidable starting lineup for Indiana.
Two more new names off the bench are playing big roles as well. Freshmen Grace Berger and Aleksa Gulbe were both highly sought after recruits that are making immediate contributions. Berger was a five-star recruit out of Kentucky, while Gulbe came to IU via Latvia.
Linsey Marchese is also back in the post off the bench and seeing significant minutes as well.
Collectively, all eight key players are 5-foot-10 or taller, with several of them having the versatility to handle the ball and score inside and out.
The best news of all? With the exception of Royster, this team will all be back next year. And Moren has already been busy significantly enhancing the 2019-20 roster.
RECRUITING HAS TURNED A CORNER
When IU faces UCLA on Sunday they will meet a familiar face from the recruiting trail. Starting at guard for the Bruins will be Indianapolis native and McDonald’s All-American Lindsey Corsaro. The Roncalli High School graduate chose UCLA over Indiana in 2016. Given the direction of the IU program since then, you have to wonder if that decision would have turned out differently a year or two later.
Since then, Moren has been on a roll. After sitting out a year, the transfers of Patberg and Wise flew under the radar a bit. But it is clear now why those two were major gets for the program.
Penn’s commitment in the 2017 class was a significant high profile win for Moren, and the addition of Berger in 2018 seemed to validate that IU’s recruiting was turning a corner.
It only seems to get better going forward.
In the 2019 class, Jorie Allen (Bedford, Indiana) and Mackenzie Holmes (Maine) are both five star recruits and both have committed to Indiana. When you add in two other highly regarded commits (Shaila Beeler – Indianapolis Warren Central, Arielle Wisne – Colorado), the Hoosiers’ 2019 class is ranked in the top 20 nationally according to ESPN.
Unlike the men’s game, where the high end talent can come and go in less than a year, Indiana appears on track to have a highly talented and deep roster for years to come.
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