Having already secured the outright regular season Big Ten title, Indiana women’s basketball will look to add to its historic season with a championship in the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana — the No. 2-ranked team in the country and 1-seed in the conference tournament — will begin play against 9-seed Michigan State at 12:30 p.m. Friday in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Despite having clinched its most successful regular season in program history by every metric, the Hoosiers and head coach Teri Moren have repeatedly stressed that their work this season isn’t finished yet.
Indiana ended its regular season with an 86-85 loss to Iowa thanks to a game winning buzzer beater from junior guard Caitlin Clark in front of a sold-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and Moren said she is ready to move past the defeat and reestablish their winning ways.
[RELATED: Caitlin Clark’s buzzer beater sinks No. 2 Indiana in regular season finale]
“We’ve talked all along — especially in the Big Ten season — about writing the story, and us being the only ones that wanted to hold the pen, and not allow anybody else to write any of the chapters,” Moren said after the game Sunday. “Unfortunately, the ending of this chapter probably wasn’t how we wanted it to end, but another book comes out next week when we go to the Big Ten Tournament.”
That next chapter will also offer the Hoosiers an opportunity at revenge and redemption in addition to a possible championship. The team’s opening game is against the Spartans, who — prior to the Hawkeyes’ win last weekend — was the only team to beat the Hoosiers this season. On Dec. 29 in East Lansing, Michigan, senior guard Kamira McDaniel poured in 24 points and Michigan State forced 21 turnovers to overcome senior forward Mackenzie Holmes’ then-career high 32 points and secure the 83-78 win.
[RELATED: No. 4 Indiana women’s basketball suffers first blemish of the season in loss to Michigan State]
Michigan State enters Friday’s game having defeated 8-seed Nebraska 67-64 on Thursday in its opening game of the tournament. With the win over the Cornhuskers, the Spartans have now built considerable momentum by winning five of their last six games.
Moren said that setting a good tone in the Hoosiers’ first game will be vital to building momentum of their own and ensuring long-term success throughout the Big Ten and NCAA competitions.
“The first game in tournament play like this is always the most important,” Moren said Thursday. “So, I want us to come out and play well and then I think that’s when you generate some momentum for the next round, then the next round.”
Moren also acknowledged that while Indiana has essentially locked up a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, there will be opponents that are still fighting for a spot in the bracket who could cause some upsets in Minneapolis — such as Michigan State.
If Indiana does beat Michigan State, its semifinals opponent on Saturday will be the winner of 4-seed Ohio State and 5-seed Michigan, which will tip-off following the Indiana-Michigan State game on Friday. The Hoosiers beat both teams twice each during the regular season, though both are ranked in the top-25 nationally and feature All-Big Ten First Team players.
With a win on Saturday, Indiana would advance to its second consecutive Big Ten Championship game with a chance to win its second ever conference tournament — the first coming in 2002. That championship game could be against any of the four remaining teams on the other side of the bracket, though the favorites to reach the title game are 3-seed Maryland and, of course, 2-seed Iowa.
Regardless of any outside results, Moren said the Hoosiers are ready to get out on the court and prove they’re the best team in the conference.
“Sometimes the best recipe after a stinger like we had on Sunday is to quickly get back out on the floor, and I think that holds true for us right now,” Moren said We’re really eager to get back on the floor and compete.”
The quarterfinal and semifinal games of the tournament will all be televised on BTN and the Big Ten Championship will take place on ESPN at 5 p.m. Sunday.