Indiana women’s basketball knows it’s a popular pick to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Hoosiers have seen brackets pour in across social media since Selection Sunday, with many people pegging them as a Final Four or national championship team. And they’ve found it cool, or even surreal, to see those predictions.
But those aren’t the brackets that stick out to Grace Berger. She fixated on the ones that have the Hoosiers falling out earlier.
“I’d pick us too if I was them. But there are a couple brackets that have us losing early. I think those are the ones I remember more,” Berger said. “I know Candace Parker had us losing in the Sweet 16. That one hurt a little bit. But we’re excited to prove them wrong.”
Indiana, a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history, opens March Madness against No. 16 seed Tennessee Tech on Saturday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
— Seth Tow (@SethTow) March 17, 2023
IU has spent most of the season near the top of the polls. The Hoosiers set a program-high by reaching No. 2 in the AP Poll, several times.
So the team has spent all year in the spotlight. It’s managed high expectations all year.
“I think that we know better than anybody that those rankings throughout the season are great, but they don’t necessarily mean a whole lot,” said First Team All-American Mackenzie Holmes. “It’s just about, not how you start the season, but how you finish off the season. We’ve just had that mindset all year.”
IU had that mindset from the outset of the season. This group was a blend of returnees and newcomers, whether freshmen or transfers. But even with a new makeup, the locker room remained filled with veterans.
That helped the Hoosiers remain consistent and stay on track despite knowing what was expected of them. It starts at the top, with strong player leadership from Berger and Holmes, and directly from head coach Teri Moren.
One of the many sayings Moren repeats to her players is, ‘You never arrive.’ And she’s not just saying it, but getting her squad to believe it.
“That’s kind of our attitude every day in practice, that we’re not where we want to be,” Berger said. “We’re not at our best yet. We still have a lot of things that we need to work on. I think just the mindset that she gives us, that we haven’t accomplished anything yet, kind of allows us to just keep steadily getting better throughout the year.”
Indiana enters this matchup against the Golden Eagles coming off a long period without a game. The Hoosiers lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 4.
So the NCAA Tournament-opener will be IU’s first game in two weeks. The team has had a lot of time to process the season as a whole, with a 27-3 record, as well as the ending, with two losses in the last three games. Berger said they’ve spent time addressing exposed weaknesses and things they need to improve on.
It gave IU a chance to rest as well. Moren indicated the Hoosiers came away from the Big Ten Tournament a little banged up, and that this period would give them a chance to recover.
The IU staff paid close attention to Tennessee Tech’s First Four win over Monmouth, and Holmes watched it on TV. She said it was a little weird to watch a game played at Assembly Hall with IU not involved, and on TV rather than in person.
And Moren is imploring her players to not think too far ahead.
“(Tennessee Tech) is a hot team right now. They’re not to be taken lightly,” Moren said. “Seeds don’t matter at this time of the year. You want your team to be playing their best basketball. It’s obvious that Tennessee Tech, right now, is playing their best basketball.”