If the IU women’s basketball team has learned one thing about the selection committee from the past two years, it’s to never count on anything.
In the 2015-16 season, IU finished the regular season at 20-10 and received a double-bye for the Big Ten Tournament in which they lost to Northwestern. However, their resume was good enough to earn an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in 14 years.
The Hoosiers would take advantage of their ninth seed and beat eighth-seeded Georgia by four to win its first NCAA Tournament game in 33 years. IU would eventually fall to first-seeded Notre Dame in the Round of 32.
Fast forward a year later, IU found itself in a familiar situation — a 20-win regular season, a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and losing its first game of the conference tourney, this time to Purdue.
That time, however, the Hoosiers were excluded from the Big Dance.
Bring it back to the present and IU is once again on the bubble. In a season where the Hoosiers brought in five new freshmen — starting two — and only had ten eligible players on the roster, they finished with a 16-13 regular season record.
Even though that record isn’t as good as the past two seasons, IU has still managed to put itself in the conversation to at least be considered.
One of the keys the committee looks for in a team is the toughness of its non-conference schedule. IU’s non-conference opponents this year were tougher than years past.
It featured Chattanooga, Saint Mary’s, then-No. 4 Louisville, Auburn, then-No. 16 Missouri and Virginia. This created IU to have the eighth-hardest schedule in the regular season in all of the NCAA. The problem is IU lost to all these teams — some were close, and one went to overtime, while others were double-digit defeats.
However, IU did pick up some solid non-conference wins. A two-point victory over a 21-8 Western Kentucky team, an eight-point victory over a 24-5 University of Alabama at Birmingham team and a four-point win against Yale, who is 15-12.
All that led to the Hoosiers entering conference play with an overall record of 7-6.
The Big Ten, one of college basketball’s hardest conferences, began tough for IU as it dropped its first five of six games. The first two games were blowouts, but then the team started to become more competitive — losing at Penn State by just three, blowing out Purdue at home, losing by five on the road to then-No. 23 Michigan and losing by four on the road to then-No. 14 Maryland.
IU’s conference record was 1-6, and the season wasn’t looking bright, but things began to pick up for this young team.
Again, there are five new freshmen, all adjusting to the collegiate level of play, but they are led by veteran seniors who are, no question, two of the best basketball players to come to Bloomington. Those two seniors didn’t want their final season to go down in ashes.
Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill took control Jan. 20 in East Lansing, Michigan, and sparked their team to ride an eight-game win streak to put them back in the conference race. IU, which was once 1-6 and 8-12, then became 9-6 and 16-12.
The Hoosiers did lose their final game at Iowa, but they secured the seventh-best conference record in the Big Ten after sitting second to last one month prior. This gave them a one-game bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
After exiting in its first game the past two years, IU took on Michigan State in this year’s tourney. The Hoosiers went to four overtimes with the Spartans and won 111-109, playing in the longest game of Big Ten Tournament history. The next day, they played second-seeded Maryland and were even with the Terrapins most of the way until the end. Fatigue seemed to set in for IU, and they lost 67-54.
Now, with uncertainty regarding its future, IU awaits the selection committee’s decision March 12.
Recent bracketology has been released by ESPN’s Charlie Creme concluding the Big Ten Tournament. Creme has five of the Big Ten’s top six teams in the tournament — Ohio State, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan in that order.
Nebraska, 21-10, sits between Iowa and Minnesota and is among Creme’s first four out. His last four in include Minnesota, 23-8, and Rutgers, 20-12. Rutgers is ninth in the Big Ten standings and made it to the same spot in the conference tournament as IU. The Hoosiers also beat Rutgers in the regular season as well as Minnesota and Nebraska. Another team mentioned in Creme’s first four out is Purdue, 18-13, who IU beat twice.
Out of those four teams, Rutgers and Minnesota have a higher RPI than IU, but Nebraska and Purdue don’t. Therefore, the predictions may match based on RPI, except for the fact that IU is not even a mention, not even in the next four out category.
Through March 4 including the Big Ten Tournament, IU now has had the eleventh-hardest schedule in the NCAA. Only one Big Ten team is ahead, and it’s the Big Ten Tournament Champion Ohio State Buckeyes with the sixth-hardest. IU was also the hottest team in the Big Ten to end the season, winning nine of its last 11.
Once again, the Hoosiers will sit in the IU locker room as teams get selected, hoping to hear their names called. The suspense will be dreadful, but IU Coach Teri Moren thinks her team has a case.
“I do think we have an argument, there’s no question,” Moren said. “The criteria is they want you to go out and play people, and I know you got to beat people, but we have done that. We have gone out and structured our schedule to be difficult, and the strength of schedule is eight, which I think is noteworthy.”