Prior to coach Teri Moren's tenure at Indiana, the Hoosiers' women's basketball program had won one NCAA Tournament game in its history. Under Moren, Indiana has gone dancing twice in five years and won a game both times, including a first-round victory over Texas last season.
With four starters back from a team that won at least 20 games for the fourth straight season, Indiana is expected to make a leap into contention in the Big Ten and comes into the season ranked No. 24 in the country. It's only the second time in program history the Hoosiers have been ranked in the preseason poll.
“I like how this group is really together,” Moren said. “They're really on the same page, really for each other. I think the success that they had a year ago, especially out in Oregon (at the NCAA Tournament) has done something to them. They're hungry, they want more.
“We have to be tougher, we have to be grittier,” she added.
The Hoosiers bring back a talented group led once again by former Indiana Miss Basketball Ali Patberg out of Columbus North. She led the Hoosiers in scoring at 15.8 points per game last season after sitting out 2017-18 following her transfer from Notre Dame.
She also led the team in assists with 4.8, though the Hoosiers struggled in that area overall, coming in last in the Big Ten in assists per game. Moving the ball has been a point of emphasis this offseason and as the team's top facilitator, that starts with Patberg.
“In practice we've been sharing the ball,” the fifth-year senior said. “I don't think it's necessarily that we didn't want to share the ball (last season), it's that we were so focused on attacking the rim, getting to the basket, creating shots. We have the ability and the talent to make great passes.”
Patberg suffered a separated shoulder last season, causing her to miss three games, and she has worked in practice to get back in shape after spending part of the offseason recovering from surgery.
She isn't the only Hoosier struggling to get back to full strength. Returning starters Bendu Yeaney and Jaelynn Penn have both dealt with significant injuries in the offseason. Yeaney, who averaged 9.7 points and 4.1 rebounds last season, tore her Achilles in the NCAA Tournament and is likely out until December or January.
Penn, meanwhile, has dealt with plantar fasciitis, a nagging injury that she spent the entire summer trying to manage. The Hoosiers' second-leading scorer last season and a second-team All-Big Ten performer, Penn played 13 minutes in Indiana's exhibition game on Sunday, but she likely will not be 100% for the start of the season.
“We are still pretty nicked up,” Moren said.
Those injuries might be debilitating for some teams, but the Hoosiers seem to have the depth available to weather them. A cadre of freshmen and sophomores are ready to step up for Indiana and take minutes early in the season. Indiana Miss Basketball Jorie Allen, a highly touted 6-foot-1 freshman forward, leads that group.
“I'm really confident in my ability to execute and play hard,” Allen said. “I feel like the coaches have a lot of confidence in me, but I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win.
“Throughout high school, I was best at driving and attacking the basket, but I've really put a lot of time in my outside shot and that's a big part of my game now.”
Other players set for an increased role this season are sophomore Grace Berger, a former five-star recruit, and Aleksa Gulbe, another sophomore, who scored 20 points in Indiana's exhibition game.
Today: Mount St. Mary's, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Nicholls St., noon
Nov. 17: Jackson St., 2 p.m.
Nov. 22: at Florida, 6 p.m.
Nov. 28: vs. South Carolina, at St. Thomas, 8 p.m.
Nov. 29: vs. Baylor, at St. Thomas, 5:45 p.m.
Nov. 30: vs. Washington State, at St. Thomas, 5:45 p.m.
Dec. 4: at Miami, 6 p.m.
Dec. 7: N. Florida, 7 p.m.
Dec. 11: at Butler, 7 p.m.
Dec. 15: Youngstown St., 2 p.m.
Dec. 22: UCLA, noon
Dec. 28: Michigan State, 6 p.m.
Dec. 31: at Rutgers, 3 p.m.
Jan. 6: Illinois, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9: Purdue, 7 p.m.
Jan. 12: at Iowa, 5 p.m.
Jan. 16: Northwestern, 7 p.m.
Jan. 20: at Maryland, 8 p.m.
Jan. 23: at Penn St., 6 p.m.
Jan. 27: Minnesota, 6 p.m.
Jan. 30: Wisconsin, 7 p.m.
Feb. 3: at Purdue, 6 p.m.
Feb. 6: Maryland, 8 p.m.
Feb. 9: at Nebraska, 3 p.m.
Feb. 13: at Illinois, 8 p.m.
Feb. 16: Ohio State, 2 p.m.
Feb. 22: at Minnesota, TBD
Feb. 27: Nebraska, TBD
March 1: at Michigan, TBD
March 4-8: Big Ten Tournament