Despite a season in which Indiana women’s basketball exceeded expectations and garnered the program’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers’ second-round defeat to No. 9 seed Miami was still disappointing.
With the 2022-23 campaign in the rearview mirror, the Indiana Daily Student women’s basketball beat shared some awards and takeaways from a storied, yet bittersweet year.
Most valuable player
WILL FOLEY: I’m pretty sure being a First Team All-American guarantees you’re the team’s most valuable player, and that’s exactly what Mackenzie Holmes did this season. Holmes had a career year and was extremely reliable and consistent for the Hoosiers all season, only scoring less than 15 points once. She was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and had one of the most memorable seasons in Indiana history.
MATT SEBREE: For MVP, I’m going to have to go with First Team All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and team leader in points, rebounds and blocks, Mackenzie Holmes. When fellow star Grace Berger went down with a knee injury early in the season, Holmes only increased her production and helped keep the team from faltering while its veteran leader was absent.
MATT PRESS: I can’t really see an argument for anyone but Mackenzie Holmes. The senior forward had one of the most dominant individual seasons in program history, averaging 22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and just under two blocks per game en route to First Team All-American honors. All season long, Holmes was the engine of the offense and a stout presence on the defensive interior. While already a productive big in prior seasons, she made an astonishing leap that forced teams to center their entire game plans around her. Without a late-season injury snag, who knows what more she could have accomplished. Holmes is easily the team’s MVP.
Newcomer of the year
WILL FOLEY: This was a coin flip for me, but I’ll take Sydney Parrish over Yarden Garzon. The junior guard was terrific in her homecoming, proving to be a lethal shooter from the perimeter, and she always provided a shot of energy whenever the Hoosiers needed it. Parrish’s defensive abilities are what barely pushed her past Garzon for my ballot, as her ability to play both sides of the floor well was very valuable.
MATT SEBREE: While Sydney Parrish’s homecoming may have been the one most celebrated by the Hoosier faithful, the most impactful newcomer was freshman guard Yarden Garzon, in my opinion. Even before the first game of the season tipped off, players and coaches were praising Garzon for playing beyond her years, saying she looks far from a first-year college player. Garzon lived up to that hype, starting every game as Indiana’s deadliest shooter from beyond the arc and even showing off her ability to handle the ball and run the offense at times.
MATT PRESS: Here I can definitely see contention. Junior guard Sydney Parrish and freshman guard Yarden Garzon are essentially 1. A and 1. B for me, but I’ll give Parrish the edge. A transfer from the University of Oregon, the Fishers, Indiana, native made a huge splash in her return to the Hoosier state. She notched 12 points a game on impressive shot volume and efficiency, and she seemed to always make threes at the biggest moments. Parrish was a terrific, scrappy perimeter defender who always seemed to make life difficult for ballhandlers. Her handle and overall playmaking give her the slightest advantage over Garzon for me, but both are outstanding and invaluable wings for the Hoosiers moving forward.
Most improved player
WILL FOLEY: As much as I want to pick Chloe Moore-McNeil, I’ve talked myself into Holmes being the most improved in addition to most valuable. Yes, she was a First Team All-Big Ten player two years ago. However, she not only was coming off an injury this season, but the jump from all-conference level to All-American level cannot be understated. Years before Grace Berger was the team’s top option, but Holmes cemented herself in that position this season.
MATT SEBREE: While she did not make the most overall impact, the player who I think saw the most development throughout the season was freshman forward Lilly Meister. She started the season struggling to find time in the post rotation behind Holmes but continuously showed flashes and by the end of the season, Meister was regularly either the first or second player off the bench. She got her best opportunity in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, when she registered her first career start in place of an ailing Holmes and played well in the blowout win.
MATT PRESS: This has to be junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil. Indiana fans have known how important she is prior to 2022-23, but she was simply exceptional this past season. Moore-McNeil paced the team in minutes and assists often as the true lead guard, and while her box score numbers aren’t ridiculous, her IQ and defense more than made up for a lack of scoring. She finished the season third in the entire country with a 3.23 assist-to-turnover ratio, and that’s perfectly indicative of her transformation this year. Moore-McNeil already had the physical tools as a lengthy and athletic guard, but her increased facilitation and sheer value to the team gave her the most improved spot for me.
WILL FOLEY: I wouldn’t exactly say losing to Miami was the biggest disappointment, given that Holmes wasn’t 100% healthy and the game was decided in the final seconds, but instead I will say the overall situation of the matter. After a historic season for the Hoosiers, it doesn’t seem right that a team who looked Final Four bound for the first time in program history couldn’t make it out of the second round. In program legend Grace Berger’s final season, a deep run in the tournament was well deserved. Instead, an early exit marked disappointment.
MATT SEBREE: To me, there is no question that this season’s biggest disappointment came in its Big Ten Tournament semifinals loss to Ohio State. Unlike the other three losses — which saw both teams struggle to gain any significant lead throughout the game — the loss to Ohio State featured Indiana taking a 20-point lead into halftime, then coming out in the second half and collapsing to allow the record-breaking comeback. The loss also prevented Indiana from defending its regular season conference title by winning the program’s first conference tournament championship in 20 years.
MATT PRESS: This could be a few games — notably the second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Miami — but I’ve decided to dub the Las Vegas Invitational the biggest disappointment. The late November tournament, held in a hotel ballroom, proved as disastrous as the concept sounds on the surface. The organizers misled the participating teams from the start, and the situation only worsened as the games went on. With little to no medical staff on-site, there was a clear lack of preparation in nearly every facet of the operation. I should also mention that Grace Berger suffered her knee injury at the event. The Las Vegas Invitational was the biggest disappointment for me.
Game of the year
WILL FOLEY: Indiana at Iowa in the regular season finale was one of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen, and I’m not exaggerating. Even with the Big Ten title wrapped up for Indiana, the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes played 40 minutes of high-level basketball and brought it down to the final buzzer, when Iowa junior guard and National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark nailed a 3-pointer for the win. Carver-Hawkeye Arena was sold out and the atmosphere was electric, and to witness that in a top-10 matchup was incredible.
MATT SEBREE: Although it likely won’t be featured in many highlight reels of the season, the most impactful game of the year in my opinion was Indiana’s overtime win over Nebraska in Bloomington on New Year’s Day. The Hoosiers were without Berger and coming off their first loss of the season, needing a win to avoid falling into a slide. After unranked Nebraska forced overtime, then-No. 4 Indiana came out and scored all 12 overtime points in front of more than 7,000 fans, proving their resiliency and toughness even without their veteran leader. The attendance number also marked the then baseline for what would be a series of record-breaking crowds over the following months.
MATT PRESS: The regular season home finale against Purdue, where Indiana secured a share of the Big Ten title and cut down the nets, was likely one of the best moments and environments of the year, but the actual best game has to be the matchup against Iowa on the road. The game had little implications, but both teams fought tirelessly for 40 minutes. Holmes was excellent, but National Player of the Year Iowa junior guard Caitlin Clark’s 34 points, and ridiculous 3-point buzzer-beater, paved the way for a Hawkeye win. It was an electric atmosphere and without a doubt one of the nation’s best games of the year.