Indiana women’s basketball enters the 2023-24 season coming off the program’s first Big Ten regular season title since 1983. The Hoosiers had a season to remember, going 28-4, but had a disappointing ending to the season, losing to the University of Miami (FL) in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.
Indiana tips off its season against Eastern Illinois University at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Ahead of the team’s season opener, the Indiana Daily Student women’s basketball beat shared their predictions and analysis for the upcoming season.
Most valuable player
DALTON JAMES: For the first time in program history, Indiana women’s basketball has a preseason Associated Press All-American on its team. Graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes is unquestionably the most valuable player for Indiana, and it’s not particularly close. While Holmes may not be the flashiest player who makes lengthy three-pointers, she can be relied upon when the Hoosiers need a basket in crunch time. Not only did the Gorham, Maine, native average a team-high 22.3 points per game in 2022-23, but she was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Indiana has shown it’s arguably one of the best teams in the country when Holmes is at her best, but knee injuries have plagued the forward in the latter part of each of the last two seasons. In her final season in Bloomington, the Hoosiers will go as far as Holmes will take them.
QUINN RICHARDS: It’s hard to make a case for anyone not named Mackenzie Holmes. The recently named AP Preseason All-American averaged a team-high 22.3 pts per game while tacking on a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game. Holmes’ dominance in the paint is second to none on the team, in the conference, and arguably in the country. Don’t be surprised if the senior forward is in the conversation for the Wooden award come April.
RYAN CANFIELD: Mackenzie Holmes. Not much needs to be said here, but I will say it anyway. The accolades and experience are already there for Mack. Last year Holmes was a first-team All-American and can truly do it all. Holmes’ role and success is the forefront of this team. Look for Holmes’ to be a true game-wrecker, especially if the guards do not have the ability to get anything going on the outside, Holmes will find a way to get the ball and go to work down low. Holmes thrives in the post but also worked on developing a mid-range jumper last year and I am excited to see how that jump shot progresses.
Newcomer of the year
JAMES: While she may just be entering her maiden season at Indiana, I believe freshman guard Julianna LaMendola will end up slotting into this superlative quite nicely this season. The 6-foot-1 inch guard hails from Coppell, Texas, and was ranked No. 52 on the 2023 HoopGurlz by espnW Top 100. LaMendola averaged 17.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists for Coppell High School during her senior season, earning her Texas Gatorade Player of the Year. While senior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil, senior guard Sydney Parrish and sophomore guard Yarden Garzon are expected to be the starters in the backcourt like they were a season ago, I expect LaMendola to provide a valuable spark off the bench this season.
RICHARDS: It’s difficult to select a standout newcomer for a team which not only won the Big Ten on the way to its best record in program history, but also retained all but one player from last year. However, there is one newbie who may be able to do just that, UT Martin transfer Sharnecce Currie-Jelks. The Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year averaged team highs in both points per game (15.2) and rebounds per game (6.9), making her an intriguing addition to a strong Hoosiers’ frontcourt. With Holmes, Parrish, and Garzon set as starters, it appears Currie-Jelks will be called upon to provide a scoring spark off the bench. Although the lack of minutes may hurt her from a statistical standpoint, it's hard to argue against scoring, something that Currie-Jelks has shown an ability to do consistently at the collegiate level.
CANFIELD: Sharnecce Currie-Jelks. This is a tricky one. Last year at this time I would have said Sydney Parrish (transfer) over Yarden Garzon (true freshman). The two options for this season are Currie-Jelks (transfer) and Julianna LaMendola (true freshman). Once again, I will go with the transfer with D1 experience. Currie-Jelks comes to Bloomington from UT Martin off of a stellar season in 22-23. If there is one thing that IU needed last year, I would have said a versatile big to complement Mackenzie Holmes. And they found that in Currie-Jelks. She has shown that she can be a force in the paint and on the glass, recording 30 points and 13 rebounds in a game vs Southeastern Missouri State, both career highs. Now granted, the bigs in the Big Ten will be a massive step up from the Ohio Valley, but there is no doubt in my mind that Currie-Jelks will be able to step up to the challenge.
Breakout player of the year
JAMES: With Holmes’ recent injury history, I believe sophomore forward Lilly Meister is poised for a breakout season. While she averaged just 6.5 minutes per game last season, Meister started in Indiana’s NCAA Tournament Round of 64 contest against Tennessee Tech University while the Hoosiers rested Holmes. Although the Rochester, Minnesota, native only averaged 2.4 points per game in 2022-23, her role will likely expand this season to give Holmes more rest than in seasons past. If last season was any indication, I believe Meister will make a rather large jump this season.
RICHARDS: It's rare for a senior to be considered a “breakout player,” however I think Chloe Moore-McNeil is in a prime position to do just that for this Indiana team. The senior guard was the Hoosiers’ secondary playmaker last season, averaging 4.8 assists per game, only behind Grace Berger. With the aforementioned Berger leaving for the WNBA, I fully expect Moore-McNeil to take on a larger role in the offense and become Indiana’s primary playmaker. It may be an ambitious statement, but it's possible the Hoosier guard will challenge Iowa’s Caitlin Clark at the top of the Big Ten’s assist leaderboards.
CANFIELD: Yarden Garzon. Last year as a true freshman, Garzon was absolutely stellar being Indiana’s first and most reliable choice from behind the arc. Garzon shot 45% percent from the floor last year and received all Big Ten second team honors, as well as being first team all-freshman. I expect Garzon to take a huge leap in 2024 and transform into a three-level scorer.
Game to watch
JAMES: Indiana will be tested early this season, traveling to Palo Alto, California, to take on Stanford University on Nov. 12 for its second game of the season. While the contest will likely be an indicator of what’s to come for the Hoosiers, it will provide the team with a sense of where they need to improve before entering conference play. For the third time in four seasons, Indiana will take on the University of Tennessee on Nov. 23 — this time in Fort Myers, Florida. After taking on a couple of powerhouse programs in their non-conference slate, the Hoosiers will be tasked with a pair of matchups against Caitlin Clark and Iowa. The pair of contests against the Hawkeyes will surely be ones to watch this season.
RICHARDS: Non-conference games are particularly interesting as they give teams a chance to take on an unfamiliar opponent. For that reason, my game to watch is the Hoosiers second game of the season against No. 15 Stanford. As a blue-blood in women’s college basketball, it’s no shocker that the Cardinal are ranked going into the season. Beyond that, the Pac-12 powerhouse holds many parallels to Indiana. Being led by senior forward Cameron Brink, Stanford is looking to recover from losing their primary playmaker Haley Jones who left for the WNBA – sound familiar? Additionally, both teams were one seeds in last year's NCAA Tournament and had similarly crushing second-round defeats at home. This matchup will be Indiana’s first real test of its 2023-2024 season and will provide important insight in how the Hoosiers will stack up against top level talent for the remainder of the year.
CANFIELD: Iowa and Ohio State. I am pretty comfortable putting IU as the favorites against every Big Ten team at home. However, their biggest conference challenges will likely be the two teams that hit IU the hardest last year. The Hawkeyes knocked off IU to end the regular season last year and the Buckeyes stopped their quest for a Big Ten tournament title. Both of those teams bring back a lot, including arguably the most influential womens college basketball player ever in Caitlin Clark. If IU wants a piece of the Big Ten regular season pie, these games are must-wins.
JAMES: I foresee a top three finish in the Big Ten this season with Iowa and Ohio State being the other two schools in the upper echelon of the conference. After suffering a disappointing loss to the University of Miami (FL) in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 a season ago, Indiana will look to return to the Sweet 16 as it did in the two seasons prior to 2022-23. While the Hoosiers return nearly every impactful player from last season, other than Berger, I think that the 2023-24 squad will be on a mission to redeem themselves from the heartbreaking loss and will return to at least the second weekend of March Madness.
RICHARDS: It’s safe to say that last year’s loss to Miami in the second round of the NCAA tournament was a disappointment. After a historic season which netted the Hoosiers a No. 1 seed in the tournament, the early exit was a blemish on an otherwise immaculate resume. With that being said, I believe that in the 2023-2024 season, Indiana will at least make the Sweet 16. I fully expect the Hoosiers to place 2nd or 3rd in the Big Ten behind Iowa and/or Ohio State, resulting in a top 3 seed come March. With greater experience on the national stage and fueled by the stinging loss to Miami, I predict that Indiana will find its way to the Sweet 16.
CANFIELD: Top 4 finish in the Big Ten and second weekend in the NCAA tournament (3-4 seed). I believe the Hoosiers will cruise in every game that is not against Iowa, Ohio St. or Maryland. Yes, they can win those games, but they will be tougher than the others.