Aliyah Boston took two dribbles. She pivoted. She pivoted again. Then, finding a sliver of space, she stepped through and scored.

The intricate move looked like the footwork of a WNBA veteran, not a rookie playing in her fourth professional game. But Boston isn’t like most rookies. She isn’t like most players.

She’s the kind of player that can go up against 2022 Sixth Woman of the Year Brionna Jones and execute a patient, high-level move to score. The kind of player that, so far, has replicated her efficient shooting numbers from college against the top basketball players in the world.

Through four games, Boston is averaging 15.8 points on 66.7% shooting.

“Aliyah is special, man,” Indiana Fever coach Christie Sides said Tuesday.

It’s why the Fever selected her first in the 2023 draft, and why Boston is going to be a key part of Indiana’s growth as the team looks to improve on last season’s 5-31 record.

And it’s not just Boston. The Fever have a core of young stars, including second-year player NaLyssa Smith, who is averaging 14.8 points and 12.0 rebounds through the first four games of the season.

Boston and Smith make for a dynamic duo in the frontcourt. They helped Indiana snap a 20-game losing streak with a 90-87 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday. Then they led the way as the team took the Connecticut Sun to the brink on Tuesday in an 81-78 loss.

Against Atlanta, Smith had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists, and Boston finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds. In the loss to the Sun, Smith once again recorded a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Boston had a season-high 20 points.

The two are learning to lean on each other, and their on-court chemistry is already strong.

“Having someone you can rely on for big buckets at the end of the game, that’s huge,” Smith said. “The more we gel, and the more we play together, it will be harder to guard us and stop us.”

Following the loss to Connecticut, sitting side by side, Smith and Boston remained in good spirits. Playing the Sun so closely, just days after their first win against Atlanta, felt like a big step.

“Just based off us playing them our very first game to now, I think there was a lot of improvement,” Boston said, referencing the Fever’s 70-61 opening day loss to the Sun. “So it feels good. I mean, it would feel better if we came out with a dub, but we look at what we need to improve on and see the areas where we did well.”

Sides agrees with her players. This could be a turning point for the Fever, she said, but they have to keep executing and improving every day.

In her first season as head coach, Sides has the tough task of building up a team that went a combined 17-73 over the last three seasons. Before topping the Dream, Indiana had tied for the longest losing streak in WNBA history.

But Sides, who spent 2022 as an assistant with Atlanta, likes the pieces she has – young players like Boston, Smith, Queen Egbo, Lexie Hull and Grace Berger, plus veterans like Kelsey Mitchell and Erica Wheeler.

Berger also was selected in the 2023 draft at No. 7 overall, and Sides sees her as a key component to the Fever’s future. The Indiana graduate played six minutes in the first half against the Sun, running the offense and recording a bucket on a hesitation blow-by.

“She’s going to be a good player,” Sides said. “But with rookies it just takes time. I have all the confidence in Grace when she goes in. She is going to keep getting better and getting more minutes.”

Rebuilding the franchise is no easy feat, but it’s one with a clear blueprint. Every game, every practice, every individual workout is a step in the right direction.

“We just go to work,” Sides said. “We stop talking, and we teach, and we go to work. That’s all we can do. And they’ve got to get the experience.”

Tuesday’s game was yet another experience the team needed: A close loss. The Fever kept within striking distance throughout the game, never letting the Sun pull away. It allowed them to have the final possession, down 3, with a chance to go to overtime.

Hull missed the shot, but the play was well-executed, Sides said. That’s something she’s seen major growth on over the first four games. When Sides calls a timeout, the Fever do exactly what she asks when they go back on the court.

That seems like a small thing, but the learning process is about taking those small things and building on them.

“When you’ve lost as much as some of these players have, you have to teach them how to win again,” Sides said. “You have to learn to win. There is a way to win. You have to have a sense of urgency, fight from the beginning, execute, do the little things … So that is what we are working on every day, and they are putting in the work.”

Chaos was the theme of Sunday and Monday’s Round of 32 matchups, with Ole Miss topping No. 1 Stanford, Miami beating No. 1 Indiana and Colorado taking down No. 3 Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s how each of those underdogs got it done, and what their chances are as the bracket turns to the Sweet 16.

(8) Ole Miss 54, (1) Stanford 49

The Rebels got the upset party started by defeating Stanford 54-49 on Sunday, and they did it with defense. Stanford never led and only tied the game once when Cameron Brink hit two free throws with 1:16 left to play, evening the score at 49. Ole Miss controlled the game by never letting Stanford get comfortable. The Cardinal turned the ball over 21 times, their second-highest mark of the season, including three turnovers in the final 21 seconds. Those last few possessions were crucial to securing the victory, but Ole Miss kept the pressure on all game.

The game also marked Stanford’s second-lowest points total of the season (before that, they recorded their fewest points and most turnovers in a loss to USC on Jan 15). Ole Miss also held Stanford to 32.7 percent shooting from the field and just 28.6 percent from the 3-point line. That 3-point defense has been the Rebels’ calling card all season, with the team holding opponents to 24.8 percent from beyond the arc. They did it to the extreme in the first round, limiting Gonzaga — who typically shoot an NCAA-best 40.5 percent from 3 — to a 1-for-17 performance.

As Ole Miss contested every shot, the Cardinal struggled to share the scoring load, with only Brink and Haley Jones reaching double figures. The Rebels’ high-pressure defense combined with timely 3-point shooting (5-for-11) allowed them to secure the upset.

Going forward

The Rebels take on Louisville in the Sweet 16 (Friday, 10 p.m. ET) and will rely on the same defensive formula. The Cardinals have skilled, experienced guards who should be able to handle the pressure, whereas Stanford’s primary ball-handler was freshman Telana Lepolo. Still, Ole Miss will be a hard out for anyone in the tournament since they are capable of rattling even the most experienced players. Louisville will have to control the ball and the tempo, while also limiting Ole Miss’ talented guard duo of Marquesha Davis and Angel Baker.

(9) Miami 70, (1) Indiana 68

The Hurricanes’ upset of Indiana was perhaps even bigger than Ole Miss’ win over Stanford. Here’s why: Ole Miss had to create extreme circumstances in which the Cardinal turned the ball over and couldn’t hit a shot in order to win. Miami, meanwhile, just did everything better than Indiana.

All season, the Hoosiers have been known for their post play thanks to the dominance of Mackenzie Holmes. The senior averaged 22.3 points per game while shooting an efficient 68 percent from the field. Holmes racked up 22 points in this game, but Miami still found away to exploit Indiana in the paint — on the other end of the floor. Lola Pendande (6-4) and Destiny Harden (6-0) overpowered the Hoosiers defense, finding a mismatch in whichever player Holmes wasn’t guarding. It allowed them to score 19 and 18 points, respectively.

In the backcourt, Miami also found a way to score when Indiana was not. The Hurricanes forced just seven turnovers, but they did keep the Hoosiers guards uncomfortable. They limited Yarden Garzon to 10 points, Chloe Moore-Mcneil to nine and Sydney Parrish to four. Meanwhile, Grace Berger scored 17 points, but did so on 6-for-16 shooting from the floor.

Going forward

Miami will be able to attack the paint in a similar way against Villanova (Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET), as the Wildcats don’t have size inside to defend Pendande and Harden. Sophomore forward Christina Dalce is their tallest starter at 6-foot-2, while Maddy Siegrist is next at 6-1. On defense, don’t expect the Hurricanes to stop Siegrist, a dynamic scorer who is averaging an NCAA-leading 29.2 points per game. But if Miami can limit the rest of Villanova’s lineup, then the Hurricanes will have a good chance at a victory. After that, things would get tougher, as No. 3 LSU or No. 2 Utah awaits the victor.

(6) Colorado 61, (3) Duke 53

A 6-seed over a 3-seed isn’t as big of an upset as a 9 or an 8 over a 1, but Colorado’s accomplishment is still a big deal, mainly because many experts across the country had the Buffs losing to Middle Tennessee in the first round. Instead, they beat Middle Tennessee and then topped one of the ACC’s best teams in Duke.

Duke’s Celeste Taylor was the best defender on the floor, finishing with 10 steals, 10 rebounds, eight assists and eight points. But as a team, Colorado got the better of the Blue Devils defensively. In the overtime win, the Buffs held Duke to 31.7 percent shooting from the floor and 21.7 percent from the 3-point line.

On offense, Colorado had a major advantage with Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh. No one on Duke’s roster could handle Vonleh’s pure strength on the inside, leading to 12 points. The Blue Devils also didn’t have an answer for Miller, who at 6-3 can play inside or outside, creating a mismatch for whoever is guarding her. Miller finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three assists in the win.

Going forward

Next up for the Buffs is Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET). While Clark will undeniably be the best player on the floor, the Buffs can exploit the same matchup they did against Duke. Iowa will struggle to find a defensive game plan for Miller, and Iowa’s secondary scorer, Monika Czinano, will face an even tougher challenge against Vohleh and Miller on the inside. If Colorado is to win this game, they won’t do it by stopping Clark. Instead, they have to limit the rest of the Hawkeyes while exploiting their own defensive matchups.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

It’s time.

March Madness, a.k.a the most wonderful time of the year, is officially upon us. The 68-team field for the NCAA Women’s Tournament was set during the selection show on Sunday night, which means it’s time to fill out your brackets before the first-round games begin Friday.

Make sure to register for the JWS x DICK’s Sporting Goods Bracket Challenge for a chance to win $150,000. To get you started, here are my full bracket picks and games you definitely want to keep an eye on.


Round of 64

South Florida vs. Marquette (March 17)

This game is basically a pick ‘em, which means it’s 50/50 on who could win. Both of these teams play slowly, ranking in the bottom half of the league in possessions per game. Neither team forces a lot of turnovers, and they both have three players who do the bulk of their scoring, with a significant drop-off after that.

I like Marquette because of their experience playing top-tier opponents in the Big East, but who you pick in this one doesn’t hold a ton of weight because they face No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the next round.

Oklahoma vs. Portland (March 18)

This game is interesting because Portland has a lot of similarities to Utah, a team that blew out Oklahoma 124-78 back in November. The Pilots shoot a ton of 3-pointers and have a solid post player and rim protector in 6-foot-6 Lucy Cochrane. Portland could keep it close, but the Pilots don’t have the overall talent that Oklahoma does. I expect the Sooners to pull off the win in the end.

Gonzaga vs. Ole Miss (March 17)

Gonzaga is coming off a loss to Portland during which they looked uncharacteristically rattled. Ole Miss, while talented, over-performed when they took South Carolina to overtime on to overtime on Feb. 19. The Zags should be able to handle Ole Miss’ pressure thanks to an experienced backcourt led by senior guard Kaylynne Truong.

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Drake vs. Louisville (March 18)

Drake got on people’s radars earlier in the season when they nearly defeated Iowa. Then they went through an up-and-down season before winning five in a row to clinch an automatic bid. Louisville, meanwhile, had a terrible start to the season before peaking at the right time.

Drake has six talented scorers at both the guard and post position, while the Cardinals see a drop-off after Hailey Van Lith and Chrislyn Carr. If Louisville forward Olivia Cochran has a big game — something she is more than capable of — then the Cardinals are primed to win. But if they rely too much on Van Lith, Drake’s bevy of scorers can force the upset.

Colorado vs. Middle Tennessee (March 18)

Middle Tennessee put together an impressive resume that includes an 18-2 conference record and a win over Louisville earlier in the season. They had the potential to be a Cinderella heading into the tournament but got a tough draw with Colorado in the first round. The Buffs play a suffocating defense that rattled the likes of Stanford, Utah and UCLA this season. Plus, they have one of the toughest guards in the country in Jaylyn Sherrod and a great inside-outside game led by Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh that’s hard to stop.

Michigan vs. UNLV (March 17)

UNLV is one of the most athletic teams in the country. As a 12-seed, they would be a bad matchup for whichever team drew them, and Michigan is the unlucky recipient. Junior center Desi-Rae Young is a matchup nightmare, averaging 18.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this season, and every player around her can create their own shot. Michigan played in the better conference in the Big Ten, but UNLV is the more talented team and has the potential to be a sleeper pick in this tournament.

Toledo vs. Iowa State (March 18)

Before she tore her ACL in January, top WNBA draft prospect Stephanie Soares had Iowa State as a potential Final Four team. Without her, that doesn’t seem possible, but the Cyclones are still a solid team. They battled through the Big 12 tournament to defeat Texas for the title on Sunday, and I expect them to do the same against Toledo. But this one could be close. The Rockets have an excellent backcourt that could pick apart the Iowa State defense without a rim protector. If you’re feeling risky, then go with Toledo.

Notre Dame star Olivia Miles remains questionable for the NCAA Tournament with a knee injury. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Round of 32

Notre Dame vs. Creighton

A healthy Notre Dame team would be poised for a deep run, but without Oliva Miles and Dara Mabrey, they limped to the end of the regular season and were blown out by Louisivlle in the ACC tournament. The players in their lineup are talented enough to get them out of the first round, but after that, this team is too depleted to get past a tough, experienced Creighton squad.


I’m riding with UNLV because of all the reasons I mentioned above. This team has Power 5-level athletes and a coach who knows how to game-plan against top teams. LSU will be a tough test, and the Angel Reese vs. Desi-Rae Young matchup should be exciting. This result could go either way, but I’m counting on UNLV’s poise to propel them to a win.

Sweet 16

South Carolina vs. UCLA

This is one of those rematches that likely won’t live up to the hype. UCLA played South Carolina close the first time around, thanks to a game plan that involved packing the paint, double- and triple-teaming Aliyah Boston and making the Gamecocks shoot from long range. South Carolina weathered that storm and will do the same once again. Expect them to be better prepared for the Bruins this time around.

UNLV vs. Utah

The Rebels and the Utes are two teams that like to run and have a variety of scoring weapons. I see this being a close game, but Utah has the tools to end UNLV’s run. The Utes are one of a few teams that are a bad matchup for UNLV. Wooden Award finalist Alissa Pili is a different type of big who will stretch the floor, creating lanes for Utah’s slashers.

Stanford bigs Cameron Brink and Lauren Betts have the edge in a matchup with Iowa. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Elite Eight

Stanford vs. Iowa

This season’s Iowa squad has the goods to avoid an early upset, thanks to role players stepping up to assist Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano. Like most teams, I don’t think the Cardinal have a defender who can slow down Clark, but unlike most teams, I don’t think they have to. Clark can score her points, but the post play will be a problem. Cameron Brink will present a mismatch, with her ability to extend defenses and attack off the bounce, and the Cardinal have too many talented bigs to rotate in, such as Lauren Betts and Fran Belibi. I expect them to overwhelm Iowa inside and get the win.

UConn vs. Virginia Tech

The Hokies are playing their best basketball right now. They ended their season with 11-straight wins in arguably the country’s top conference and an ACC Championship. Georgia Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley are one of the best guard-post duos in the NCAA, and Taylor Soule and Kayana Traylor are contributing at a high level. The Huskies finally have a healthy Azzi Fudd, and with her, they have a shot at another Final Four. But Virginia Tech is a touch better and should come out on top.

Indiana vs. Utah

Indiana and Utah each have talent at every position. They have elite posts in Mackenzie Holmes (IU) and Pili (Utah), and elite guards in Grace Berger and Sydney Parrish (IU) and Gianna Kneepkens and Izzy Palmer (Utah). I give the edge to Indiana because they have better secondary scorers. Players like Yarden Garzon and Sara Scalia can put up big numbers when needed.

South Carolina's roster is steeped with talent, including senior guard Zia Cooke. (Lance King/Getty Images)

Final Four

This is one of those tournaments that has the potential for early-round upsets but will likely end up chalk in the Final Four. In this case, I think the committee got the 1-seeds right as the top four teams in the tournament.

South Carolina vs. Stanford

These teams met earlier in the season, with South Carolina picking up a win in overtime, and both teams are now better than they were in that matchup. Stanford’s development of Lauren Betts could change the dynamic of this game. The Cardinal didn’t have a second option once Cameron Brink got into foul trouble in that November matchup; now they do.

But South Carolina figured out some things, too — like how well Raven Johnson and Kamilla Cardoso play together off the bench and how to best use its deep rotation. This game could come down to the final possession, that’s how close these teams are. But in the end, South Carolina is undefeated for a reason, and I expect them to stay that way.

Indiana vs. Virginia Tech

This matchup will likely come down to depth. Amoore and Kitley are elite scorers, but after that, Indiana is stronger player to player. The Hoosiers have six players who can erupt at any point, and that should be enough to top the Hokies.


South Carolina vs. Indiana

The Gamecocks are coming off a 2022 national championship, while the Hoosiers have never made it past the Elite Eight. The Hoosiers’ starting five matches up relatively well with the Gamecocks, but once these teams go to the bench, it’s all South Carolina.

Ultimately, the Gamecocks have too many weapons that all play well together. When the final buzzer sounds, South Carolina will be the champion once more, joining UConn, Tennessee and USC as the only programs to win consecutive titles.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

South Carolina is the clear choice for the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. After that, the battle for the No. 1 seeds gets considerably murkier.

Stanford and Indiana exposed cracks in their cases during their conference tournaments, while other teams climbed their way into the conversation. Which teams could land on the No. 1 line come Selection Sunday this weekend?

Cases for six contenders are presented below in alphabetical order. Check out Just Women’s Sports writer Eden Laase’s projected bracket for her best guess at the No. 1 seeds.

Indiana (27-3)

Despite ending the regular season with a loss to Iowa and then falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals, the Hoosiers might have the best argument for a No. 1 seed of any team on this list.

Their consistency in one of the toughest conferences stands out from the pack. They have a No. 5 NET ranking, and a five-point loss to Michigan State in December is the only blemish on their résumé.

Iowa (26-6)

If the selection committee gives more weight to recent form than to overall body of work, then the Hawkeyes could find themselves with a No. 1 seed.

While Iowa lost to Kansas State early in the season, its other nonconference losses (UConn and NC State) are not major knocks against the Hawkeyes. The team has peaked in the last two weeks with a buzzer-beating win over Indiana to close out the regular season followed by a Big Ten Tournament title. And Caitlin Clark’s star power will shine brightly in the NCAA Tournament field.

Stanford (28-5)

The Cardinal rank fourth in the NET and third in strength of schedule. So, even though their loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals hurts, they still would look at home on the top line.

Stanford has wins against Utah, UCLA and Arizona, plus the team gave South Carolina its toughest battle all season in a 76-71 overtime loss back in November.

UConn (28-5)

Before the Big East tournament, even UConn coach Geno Auriemma had doubts about his team’s postseason chances. But the Huskies have found a new life in March, helped by the return of Azzi Fudd, which makes them as dangerous as ever heading into March Madness.

Utah (25-4)

After a win over Stanford late in the regular season, Utah could have locked up a No. 1 seed with a strong Pac-12 tournament. But even after losing to Washington State, which went on to take the title, the Utes still have an impressive résumé, including wins over Arizona and Oklahoma.

Virginia Tech (27-4)

Did the Hokies’ ACC tournament title run make believers out of the selection committee? We’ll find out Sunday, but their 10-2 record against Quad 1 teams should impress.

Virginia Tech has not lost since dropping a road game to Duke back on Jan. 26, though its strength of schedule (No. 31) and NET ranking (No. 9) could put a dent in the team’s chances.

March Madness is creeping up on us, and every team is fighting to earn its spot in the field. The Selection Show takes place at 8 p.m. ET Sunday. In the meantime, contenders are battling it out in conference tournaments for automatic bids and resume-building wins.

Here’s what I think the 2023 NCAA Tournament bracket should look like if the season ended today.

No. 1 seeds

South Carolina, Indiana, Stanford, Virginia Tech

Undefeated SEC champion and reigning national title winner South Carolina is the de facto overall No. 1 seed.

Next comes Indiana, which — despite losing to Iowa and being on the wrong end of a 24-point comeback by Ohio State — has been consistent all season in a Big Ten conference that challenges teams at every turn. The Hoosiers have done enough to keep a 1-seed. While an argument can be made for Iowa, which took home the Big Ten tournament title, overall body of work gives the edge to Indiana. The Hawkeyes have been on a tear lately, but they have more questionable losses on the season than Indiana (Kansas State, in particular).

Stanford will be the third No. 1 seed despite a few slip-ups this season. The Cardinal’s loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament hurts, but not enough to bump them off the top line. Stanford has a No. 4 NET ranking and solid wins in and out of conference.

Competition for the final No. 1 seed is fierce. Iowa, Utah, Maryland and UConn were all in contention, but Virginia Tech played itself into the top of the bracket thanks to an ACC tournament title and an impressive record against top-ranked opponents.

Aliyah Edwards has been a bright spot for a UConn team beset by multiple injuries. (Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 2 seeds

UConn, Iowa, Utah, Maryland

Iowa just misses out on a 1-seed, but their Big Ten tournament win makes the Hawkeyes the best of the No. 2s. Meanwhile, Maryland’s overall resume is solid enough to keep a 2-seed despite the Terrapins getting blown out by Iowa in the same tournament. Maryland has some of the best non-conference wins out of this bunch, topping both UConn and Notre Dame (when the Irish were at full strength). That and regular-season success in one of the country’s top conferences helps Maryland’s case.

Utah played itself out of a 1-seed by losing to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament, but the Utes have done enough during the regular season to stop themselves from dropping even further. Other than that Washington State loss, the Utes lost only to ranked teams while beating stellar conference opponents, including Stanford, Colorado and UCLA.

UConn gets the final 2-seed thanks to strength of schedule. LSU’s loss to Tennessee in the SEC tournament allows the Huskies to keep their spot.

No. 3 seeds

Duke, Notre Dame, LSU, Texas

Two ACC teams find themselves on the 3-seed list, a testament to the conference’s strength. Duke would have been a No. 2 prior to their loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 16 and close call against Virginia in their next game. They didn’t help their case in the conference tournament, either.

Notre Dame has been struggling without Dara Mabrey and Olivia Miles, and their lopsided loss to Louisville in the ACC tournament is proof of that. Still, overall body of work has to be considered when it comes to seeding. The Irish have great wins over teams such as UConn and Virginia Tech, plus a high NET ranking (8). They may struggle in March Madness without two of their starters, but that has nothing to do with seeding.

Texas is the surprise team on this list, but the Longhorns have crept back into favor in the past month. After a rocky start to the season, during which the Longhorns lost four of their first seven games and fell out of the AP poll, they’ve turned things around. They picked up a statement win over Oklahoma on Jan. 25 and are currently 11th in the NET rankings.

If the Tigers had a better resume heading into the conference tournament, they might have been able to hang onto a higher seed. But with no standout wins on their non-conference slate, LSU has to fall back on their two-loss record, which should give UConn an edge in the fight for a 2-seed. LSU’s consistency despite its weak schedule barely allows them to hang onto a 3-seed.

Villanova's Maddy Siegrist leads all scorers in NCAA Division I this season. (Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No. 4 seeds

Ohio State, UCLA, Oklahoma, Villanova

Ohio State is the surprise of this group. The Buckeyes started the season looking unbeatable, with an 18-0 record to match, but then as injuries to Madison Greene (out for the season), Jacy Sheldon and Rebeka Mikulasikova plagued the squad, they dropped seven of their last 13 games. But the Buckeyes have some fight left, and they proved it with a monumental win over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament. A 4-seed may seem a bit high, but no one in the 5 and 6 groups has done anything to show they are more worthy than the Buckeyes, who just executed a 24-point comeback over a team projected to be a No. 1 seed.

UCLA was sitting behind both Arizona and Colorado in seeding before it topped Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament, while the Buffs and the Wildcats went down early. The Bruins had a difficult January, dropping games to Arizona, Utah and Colorado, but then bounced back with four wins in a row. Add in the win over the conference’s top team, and UCLA has the resume for a 4-seed.

No. 5 seeds

Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Louisville

The chaos of the Pac-12 tournament affected Arizona and Colorado in a big way. One win by each team and they might be hosting the first round. Instead, these squads find themselves on the 5-line. The Buffs in particular miss out, as they have been nearly unstoppable at home this season.

Michigan also didn’t help itself in the Big Ten tournament, nor in the games leading up to it. A loss to Ohio State looks better now that the Buckeyes beat Indiana, but Michigan’s resume is no better than any of the 4-seeds and no worse than the 6s.

Louisville’s appearance in the ACC championship game moves the Cardinals from a 6- to a 5-seed.

Florida State guard Ta'Niya Latson is a leading candidate for Freshman of the Year. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

No. 6 seeds

Florida State, North Carolina, Iowa State, Tennessee

The six-seeds are all teams that have gone through struggles and surprises this season. Florida State worked itself into the conversation when they beat North Carolina back in December, and since then, wins over NC State and Duke have only helped their case.

Tennessee struggled mightily out of the gate but settled into a good place as the season progressed. North Carolina has wins worthy of a higher seeding, but their inconsistency — the Tar Heels are 21-10 — keeps them from moving up.

Iowa State has stayed under the radar since Stephanie Soares tore her ACL and took the Cyclones out of national title conversations. Still, they’ve had a solid season, and as the Big 12 tournament begins, they can make a case to move up. For now, a 6-seed is a good spot for this team, which gets a boost by being 12th in the NET.

No. 7 seeds

Gonzaga, NC State, Creighton, Washington State

Of the 7-seeds, Gonzaga is the strongest. The likely WCC champions are 28-3, with quality wins over Tennessee and Louisville. They’ve also taken care of business in conference with just one loss.

NC State earns this position thanks to wins over Iowa and Notre Dame despite struggling overall in the ACC (8-8). The big upsets and a No. 18 ranking in the NET help the Wolfpack’s case.

Washington State is the surprise of this group. Before the Pac-12 tournament, the Cougars were among the last eight or so teams to earn a bid. Now, they not only have secured an automatic bid, they have played themselves up from a 10- or 11-seed and onto the 7-line. Topping Utah, Colorado and UCLA is no easy feat, but the Cougars pulled it off.

Creighton finished third in the Big East behind UConn and Villanova, with a victory over the latter helping the Blue Jays’ resume. They went on to lose a close game to the Wildcats in their conference tournament, but that doesn’t negatively impact the team overall.

USC snapped Stanford's 51-game winning streak against unranked opponents in January. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No. 8 seeds

Illinois, Baylor, USC, South Florida

Illinois, Baylor and USC are all in the same boat. They’ve had amazing wins as well as head-scratching losses. But each team has enough quality victories to fall into the 8-seed category.

South Florida should lock up a No. 8 seed by winning the AAC but could fall if an upset occurs.

No. 9 seeds

Kansas, Miami, Marquette, Ole Miss

I know teams don’t earn their seeds based on games they almost won, but Ole Miss’ near upset of South Carolina in the regular season is indicative of how good the Rebels can be. They’ve held their own in the SEC with a 9-5 record and have wins over other potential tournament teams in Georgia and Arkansas.

Kansas and Marquette both spent time in the AP Top 25 this season but find themselves unranked at the moment. Miami is in the top half of a stacked ACC, having beaten North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State, which makes them one of the stronger 9-seeds.

No. 10 seeds

Columbia, Purdue, Middle Tennessee, Alabama

Middle Tennessee is well-respected by AP voters, having been ranked in the Top 25 for the last few weeks. While the Blue Raiders play in Conference USA, which doesn’t earn them any points, they did beat Louisville in December and have been consistent since then.

Another notable 10-seed is Columbia, a potential sleeper in the NCAA Tournament. Led by sharpshooter Abbey Hsu and her 18.2 points per game, the Lions are 24-1 and atop the Ivy League standings.

Jayla Everett and St. John's took down No. 4 UConn late in the regular season. (Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 11 seeds

Florida Gulf Coast, St. John’s, Nebraska, Syracuse, Princeton

St. John’s played itself into the tournament by upsetting UConn late in the regular season, and Syracuse, Princeton and Nebraska are all on the bubble.

No. 12 seeds

UNLV, Oklahoma State, St. Louis, South Dakota State, Mississippi State

UNLV is another team that I would hate to match up with in the first round. The Runnin’ Rebels don’t get much love nationally while playing in the Mountain West, but that’s where the eye test comes in. UNLV has Power 5 talent, and if you watch them even once, it’s easy to see why they are a scary opponent.

St. Louis secured an automatic bid with a cinematic win over UMass in its conference final.

No. 13 seeds

Illinois State, Toledo, Green Bay, Long Beach State

Illinois State is fighting with Belmont for an automatic bid in the Missouri Valley, while Toledo is battling it out with Ball State in the Mid-American.

No. 14 seeds

James Madison, Iona, Boston, Drexel

The Boston Terriers are firmly in first place in the Patriot League and are the favorite to win the conference tournament. They went 17-1 in conference play this season.

No. 15 seeds

Albany, Fairleigh Dickinson, Montana State, Gardner-Webb

In the 15-seed group, Montana State stands out as a team with multiple wins over high-level opponents. The Bobcats defeated BYU and South Dakota State early in the season.

No. 16 seeds

Chattanooga / Norfolk State, Jackson State / SE Louisiana, Southern Utah, Tennessee State

All eyes will be on Jackson State this postseason after the Tigers nearly topped LSU in the first round of the 2022 tournament.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

The Big Ten women’s basketball tournament tipped off Wednesday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

No. 2 Indiana (26-2) enters the tournament with the top seed and the regular-season title in hand, but the Hoosiers are not without challengers for the crown.

No. 7 Iowa (23-6) just bested Indiana to close out the regular season thanks to a game-winning buzzer-beater from Caitlin Clark. Clark and the Hawkeyes also beat the Hoosiers in the tournament championship game last season.

No. 5 Maryland (24-5) enters the tournament with the third seed, behind Indiana and Iowa, but the Terrapins just dominated the Hawkeyes in their most recent meeting. No. 14 Ohio State (23-6) rounds out the top four, and these teams all have double-byes through to Friday’s quarterfinals.

Big Ten Tournament: Full Schedule

Broadcast information: All games will air on Big Ten Network except Sunday’s championship, which will air on ESPN. All start times are listed in Eastern Time.

  • First Round: Wednesday, March 1
    • No. 13 Penn State 72, No. 12 Minnesota 67
    • No. 11 Rutgers 63, No. 14 Northwestern 59
  • Second Round: Thursday, March 2
    • 12:30 p.m. — No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Nebraska
    • 3 p.m. (approx.) — No. 13 Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan
    • 6:30 p.m. — No. 10 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Purdue
    • 9 p.m. (approx.) — No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 6 Illinois
  • Quarterfinals: Friday, March 3
    • 12:30 p.m. — No. 1 Indiana vs. Michigan State-Nebraska winner
    • 3 p.m. (approx.) — No. 4 Ohio State vs. Penn State-Michigan winner
    • 6:30 p.m. — No. 2 Iowa vs. Wisconsin-Purdue winner
    • 9 p.m. (approx.) — No. 3 Maryland vs. Rutgers-Illinois winner
  • Semifinals: Saturday, March 4
    • 2:30 p.m. — Winners of Friday’s early games
    • 5 p.m. (approx.) — Winners of Friday’s late games
  • Championship: Sunday, March 5
    • 5 p.m. — Semifinal winners

While players like Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese grab headlines, Indiana star Mackenzie Holmes keeps quietly making her case for National Player of the Year.

Against No. 5 Iowa on Thursday, Holmes had 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting and six rebounds. She also held Iowa center Monika Czinano — who entered the game averaging 18.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game — to six points, seven rebounds and four turnovers. Czinano fouled out in the fourth quarter while trying to guard Holmes.

No. 2 Indiana held on to beat the Hawkeyes 87-78 despite Clark’s 35 points.

“I knew the task at hand, and I know the type of player Czinano is going into the game,” Holmes said. “So I really just tried to have a defensive mindset going into this game, knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy, but just try to be myself. Not do anything special, out of the ordinary.”

“You can look at the stats,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “But all you got to do is watch her. She’s pretty phenomenal.”

Holmes’ performance on Thursday was nothing new: The senior forward is averaging 22.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. She’s also shooting 69 percent from the field.

Her consistency has been key, especially as Indiana dealt with the absence of Grace Berger for six weeks this season. Since returning from a knee injury, Berger has helped the Hoosiers stay atop a competitive Big Ten conference, adding 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Thursday’s win.

Holmes expressed her support for Berger in response to a post from the NCAA March Madness account on Twitter after the game.

“She’s very confident, you know?” Moren said of Holmes. “She’s confident in herself. She’s confident in her teammates. She works at her game every day before practice. She’s healthy. She’s a year smarter than she was a year ago in terms of the game and managing her game and what she had inside of every game from a scoring perspective.”

Indiana women’s basketball just keeps getting better.

Since Teri Moren took over as coach in 2014, the Hoosiers have been on an upward trajectory. They’ve made back-to-back Sweet Sixteens. And despite losing key players to graduation, this year’s squad is Moren’s best yet.

Thursday’s 78-65 victory over No. 2 Ohio State put No. 6 Indiana atop the Big Ten with an 18-1 record and marked the program’s fourth win over a top-10 team this season. It also begged the question: Just how good is this IU squad?

Good enough for a No. 1 seed? Good enough for a Final Four?

Yes and yes.

The Hoosiers have plenty of challenges left in the Big Ten. Caitlin Clark and No. 10 Iowa – who beat them three times last season – are looming, with clashes set for Feb. 9 and the season finale on Feb. 26.

But if Indiana continues to play like it did against Ohio State, and against No. 13 Michigan days prior, it’s hard to imagine anyone else sitting atop the Big Ten when the season is over.

Indiana lost three key players from last season: Ali Patberg, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and Aleksa Gulbe. So the immediate success of this year’s squad was somewhat surprising. But a closer look at the Hoosier personnel brings it all into focus. The makeup of this team is that of a title contender.

Whether or not Indiana can reach its potential in March remains to be seen. But right now, it’s easy to envision a path to the Final Four.

Success, for the Hoosiers, starts with Mackenzie Holmes.

The senior was a force last season, but she was hampered by injury as Indiana headed into the tournament. This year, she’s healthy and virtually unstoppable in the paint. Holmes is averaging 22.1 points per game (seventh in the country) and 8.1 rebounds per game, and she is shooting 68.2% from the field (third in the country).

She’s the centerpiece on which Indiana’s offense relies, and she opens the floor for the rest of her squad.

After Holmes, the Hoosiers start three guards who average around 12 points per game. Yarden Garzon, Sydney Parrish and Grace Berger make defending Indiana difficult because they are all scoring threats.

The trio is also versatile with the ball. Berger has perfected the mid-range jumper, but she can also go all the way to the hoop and is reliable from 3-point range (44.4%). Garzon is an exceptional long-range shooter at 49.5%, and transfer Parrish has developed from just a shooter at Oregon to a player who can attack and create off movement.

Meanwhile, fifth starter Chloe Moore-McNeil has developed into a skilled passer and floor general, leading Indiana with 5.3 assists per game.

The Hoosiers are likely to pick up a couple more losses before the season is out. The Big Ten is too good for any team to get through with just one loss. But that schedule will serve them well in March.

In 2021, the Hoosiers advanced to the Elite Eight. In 2022, it was the Sweet Sixteen.

As for 2023? It could be Indiana’s year.

Indiana survived a scare Monday night, narrowly beating Princeton 56-55 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

Senior guard Grace Berger scored the go-ahead layup with 28.2 seconds remaining for the No. 3 seed Hoosiers. She led all scorers with 15 points and seven rebounds.

A steal by Ali Patberg and free throws by Aleksa Gulbe a few minutes later secured Indiana’s Round of 32 win over 11th-seeded Princeton.

The Hoosiers shot 51.2 percent on field goals and 33.3 percent from 3-point range, while the Tigers shot 33.9 percent on field goals and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. But the Tigers flourished defensively, forcing 17 turnovers and scoring 18 points off turnovers to the Hoosiers’ seven.

“I think we showed the national stage that we can compete with anyone,” coach Carla Berube said. “We have very talented players who work really hard, play together, play for each other and have a lot of fun. I think it’s a great recipe to show everyone out there Princeton basketball and the Ivy League is really great.”

Down 39-29 at halftime, Princeton erased the deficit and took a 50-49 lead with five minutes left in the game. The Tigers were led by Julia Cunningham and Grace Stone, who each had 15 points. From there, it was a back-and-forth battle until Berger broke the tie.

After the buzzer sounded, players made their way to the student section to celebrate.

“I asked coach [Teri Moren] if we could go thank them and when I got there, I said, ‘Screw it, I’m just going up there with them,'” said Mackenzie Holmes, who had 10 points and eight rebounds on the night. “I just wanted them to know we appreciated them being here and thank them for showing up.”

The Hoosiers now advance to take on UConn, which narrowly avoided a loss of its own, at 2 p.m. ET Saturday for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Indiana and basketball have been intertwined from the beginning. James Naismith, the man who created the sport, even famously said: “While the game was invented in Massachusetts, basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

Boys and girls alike from Indiana grow up with basketball in their blood.

“I don’t know anyone who didn’t play basketball,” said current Indiana player Grace Waggoner.

But as men’s basketball at Indiana rose to national prominence, first with Branch McCracken and then with Bob Knight, the women’s program remained in the shadows during the NCAA era, barring one incredible season in 1983.

It wasn’t for a lack of interest from young girls across the state. Amy Metheny, IU’s point guard in ‘83, grew up wanting to play for Knight, but would have settled for anyone if it meant a chance to be a Hoosier. Current women’s coach and former Purdue player Teri Moren had her room painted red and white growing up.

And yet for 38 years, the program was dormant.

Then in 2021, the IU women made it to the Elite Eight for the first time. Suddenly, Indiana women’s basketball was alive again.


In 1975-76, three years before Melissa Leckie set foot on Indiana’s campus, the Hoosiers men’s basketball team made history, going 32-0 and defeating Michigan for the national title.

Leckie watched the championship game at her home in Saginaw, Mich. Her parents and grandfather all went to Michigan, so when they turned on the game, the predominant rooting interest was clear. But as mom, dad and grandpa yelled for the Wolverines, Leckie quietly cheered for the Hoosiers.

“I had always been a U of M fan,” she said. “But when Indiana and Bobby Knight were playing Johnny Orr and Michigan, inside I was rooting for Indiana, and I have no idea why.”

In 1979, when the high school senior visited the campus in Bloomington, she understood. Leckie was destined to be a Hoosier.

So was her future teammate, Amy Metheny. These days, you can see Metheny’s face in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, celebrating her time at Southport High School in Indianapolis. But back then, she was fighting for a spot on IU’s roster.

Metheny was 5-foot-6, and IU at the time was only interested in recruiting taller players. When she realized Old Dominion, her other choice of school, was too far away for her parents to be able to see her play, she decided to walk on at Indiana.

At first, it did not go as planned. In her freshman year, Metheny made it to the final cuts, got strep throat, and did not make the squad. The next year, an injury got in the way.

“Long story short, it was a long journey,” Metheny said.

Metheny was relentless in her pursuit of being the Hoosiers’ point guard — think the movie “Rudy,” but with a protagonist who’s an actual talent.

“I was determined,” she said. “I went into the coaches’ office and said, ‘What do I need to do?’ I’m sure she was wondering, like, ‘Why are you still around?'”

The 1982-83 Indiana women's basketball team, the first to win a Big Ten regular season title. (Indiana University Archives)

But Metheny’s determination paid off, and in 1983 when the team won the Big Ten regular season title, she led the league in assists.

Players like Rachelle Bostic, who ranks seventh on IU’s all-time scoring list (1,827 points), contributed to that milestone. Bostic, like Leckie, hails from Michigan. The No. 3-ranked prospect in the state, she was a highly touted recruit behind Paula and Pamela McGee — “I always said I should be No. 2 because they’re twins,” Bostic joked about the duo, who were in fact a package deal.

The three of them talked on the phone often about where they wanted to play college ball. Eventually, the McGees decided on USC, but that was too far from home for Bostic.

She toured Indiana and met another prospective player, Denise Jackson, who was visiting from Florida. They were both intrigued by the program, but the selling point came from the men’s coach. Knight was already a basketball legend, so when he talked to them about coming to IU, it didn’t take much convincing.

“He said, ‘If you guys are half as good as they say you are, you can bring a lot to this program,’” Bostic said.

They were, and they did.

The 1983 season was historic for the Hoosiers, one the players still talk about today. Every year, the accomplishment becomes more and more magnificent in their personal lore.

“By the time we get to our 50th anniversary, we will have won the 1983 national title,” Leckie said with a laugh. “It will just be created amongst all of us.”

In reality, the team won the Big Ten and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament — a feat they’ve since only accomplished two other times (2016 and 2021). But to start the season, the Hoosiers weren’t exactly world-beaters.

After three straight losses to begin the season, they went 3-6 in non-conference play and opened their Big Ten schedule with a 16-point loss to Ohio State.

By that point, the players had seen enough.

“We just got together and said, ‘We are going to do something. This is the year to do it,’” Bostic said. “And we just started winning.”

Rachelle "Boz" Bostic is one of the most prolific scorers in IU women's basketball history. (Indiana University Archives)

IU went 15-2 the rest of the way, topping Ohio State 62-56 to end the year. To the players, the magical run was the start of something at IU. But in the years that followed, a confusing string of coaching hires, losing seasons, and, at times, misguided recruiting kept Indiana from winning a second Big Ten regular season title.

Players like Leckie, Metheny and Bostic looked at their beloved program and thought, “What is going on?”

“It was disappointing because we worked so hard to get it to that level,” Bostic said. “And you would hope anything after would maintain that, not let it drop below that.”

When Bostic graduated, she had no idea that Indiana basketball would falter. And she also didn’t know that she’d already met the woman who would build it back up again.

She just wasn’t a woman quite yet. Back then, she was in her early teens, attending camps at IU with Bostic as her camp counselor. Bostic remembers her work ethic and determination. “She didn’t let anything stop her,” she said.

That girl, of course, was Teri Moren.

The in-between years

Maryalyce Jeremiah, the coach of the ‘83 team, stayed on for two more seasons before leaving for a job at Cal State Fullerton. The Hoosiers worked their way through six coaches, who went a combined 438-424, before hiring Moren in 2014.

During the late ‘80s and ‘90s, women’s basketball went through a period of massive growth. Programs like Tennessee, UConn and even fellow Indiana institution Notre Dame were laying the groundwork to become powerhouses in the game.

During that process, the Hoosiers fell behind. And once they did, it took decades for them to return.

Just a year after the Big Ten title season, Nancy Eksten (then Cowan) graduated from Crown Point High School. She was the runner-up for Indiana’s Miss Basketball Award, a high school All-American and a longtime IU fan.

Eksten was the seventh of eight kids in her family, and all of them went to Indiana. But when her time came, the Hoosiers didn’t pick up the phone to recruit her, so Eksten ended up at Kentucky. It was close to home and a nationally ranked program at the time.

Eksten had success as a Wildcat — even scoring her first basket against the team that jilted her — but Kentucky was no IU. So, when Jeremiah left after Eksten’s freshman year, and Indiana’s new coaching staff showed interest in her, she transferred without a second thought.

It’s hard to find anyone who is more proud of being a Hoosier than Eksten, but her time at Indiana wasn’t easy. You couldn’t blame Eksten, or the many others in those forgotten years if they wondered, What if? What could have happened for them at IU if the situation had been just a little bit different?

“I tell you,” she says, “I would love to be playing right now. I’d love it.”

Nancy Eksten (née Cowan) transferred to Indiana, her dream school, after one season at Kentucky. (Indiana University Archives)

Jorja Hoehn headed up the program during Eksten’s first year at Indiana. Hoehn had success at Division II Central Missouri before taking the job at Indiana. Transitioning between the levels was a challenge, and Hoehn didn’t endear herself to her players.

Cindy Bumgarner was recruited by Jeremiah and played under her to start her college career. Those days, she recalls, were nothing short of a dream. But when Hoehn came in, things started out poorly — “We didn’t trust her,” Bumgarner said — and got much, much worse.

“She didn’t respect us as people,” Bumgarner said. “She told us a lot about how terrible we were. It became a thing for her that somehow her inability to connect with us or get to know us in a meaningful way suddenly became all about us being bad people. And because we didn’t practice the religion she practiced, we were going to hell.”

When Bumgarner’s playing days at IU ended and she walked off the court for the last time, she felt relieved. After everything she’d been through, she still loved the school, but basketball was no longer fun. Even worse, her self-esteem plummeted.

Bumgarner never wanted anyone to go through what she did, so when Indiana parted ways with Hoehn, she was hopeful that whoever came next would be an improvement.

She was wrong.

“Sometimes I wonder who had it worse,” she says, comparing Hoehn and Jim Izard, who took over in 1988.

Rumors about Izard swirled during his time at Indiana — stories that he was inappropriate with his players, and that he had a habit of dating them.

Three months into her senior year, when Bumgarner was no longer playing basketball but finishing her degree, Izard showed up at her door. He was there to pick up her roommate, also a former player and current college student, for a date.

“I knew right then he was going to be a problem,” Bumgarner said.

These days, Bumgarner is able to sift through the bad memories of her days at IU and pick out the things that made her happy. She loves the school, and she’s proud of the woman she became through the difficult circumstances.

“The hard things in life make you grow in ways you didn’t know you needed,” she said.

Still, it took Bumgarner 18 years before she was able to set foot on campus again. She needed time to heal. And however strange it might seem, the thing that helped remedy those wounds was the same thing that caused them — Indiana basketball.

Cindy Bumgarner (Indiana University Archives)

Teri Moren takes over

Amanda Cahill remembers vividly the day Teri Moren came into her life.

Cahill, recruited to Indiana by coach Curt Miller, went through her summer workouts with Miller, but by the time she returned to campus to start her freshman season in 2014, IU had a new coach.

She was nervous. Starting college is hard enough, but Cahill chose Indiana under different circumstances, and in a few short months, she was starting over once again. Some players transferred, but as soon as she met Moren, Cahill felt at ease. The new coach gave her a hug and was keen to help Cahill and her teammates settle in at IU.

Besides, everything Cahill loved about Indiana was the same.

“I really believed in Indiana’s future,” said Cahill, who now plays professionally in Luxembourg. “It’s a basketball state. It’s set up for success.”

Not everyone shared her confidence.

When Moren was hired, Metheny remembers hearing concerns that she might not be in it for the long haul. Moren, meanwhile, told the IndyStar in 2014 that IU was the kind of place she could see herself coaching at until she retired. Moren graduated as a Boilermaker, but she was born a Hoosier. Growing up in Seymour, Ind., Moren and her family regularly tuned into Indiana games and were avid consumers of “The Bob Knight Show.” Even her childhood bedroom, painted red and white, reflected her fandom.

Those who really knew Moren were thrilled with the hire.

When Moren became the head coach, one of the first things she did was reach out to former players and let them know they were welcome and wanted.

In the fall, Indiana celebrated 50 years of women’s basketball by inviting all alumni to campus for a special event.

“Some people hadn’t been back at all, and they treated us like family,” Eksten said. “We were just beat up, and to bring us back the way they did and to make it such a positive experience was amazing. We loved it.”

By 2014, Moren had built a solid coaching resume. After recording six winning seasons in her seven years at Division II Indianapolis, Moren spent four years at Indiana State. In her first season, the Sycamores went 16-16 and finished sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference. In her last year, they went 20-12, won the conference and made it to the NIT Tournament.

In Moren’s first season at Indiana, the Hoosiers struggled, going 4-14 in the Big Ten. But during that difficult first season, Cahill and her teammates walked into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall one day, looked up to the very top of the stands — the kind of seats you’d refer to as the “nosebleeds” — and set a goal.

“We said, ‘We really want to fill this up. We want to have people up at the top,’” Cahill said.

Teri Moren, coaching against Maryland in 2015 during her first season, has helped turn around the IU program. (G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

It worked. In Moren’s second season, the Hoosiers made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That tied a record for the program’s deepest postseason run in the NCAA era, set by the 1983 team.

IU has always had a pretty strong following for women’s basketball. In 1997, a group called the SUPERFANS made it their mission to support the team. Group member Chris Schneberger told the Indiana Daily Student in February 1997: “I think yes, I am obsessed.”

“The people who follow women’s basketball are incredibly loyal,” Metheny said. “They love their team.”

That love for the team had a trickle-down effect.

About an hour down Interstate 54 sits the town of Linton. The girls’ basketball team at Linton-Stockton high school, in the town of 5,244, won back-to-back state championships in 2020 and 2021.

Coach Jared Rehmel grew up immersed in the world of Indiana basketball, but in his town, girls’ basketball didn’t have the same backing, and he found that girls didn’t have much interest in playing. He and his staff worked hard to cultivate a culture in Linton, and they got an assist from the college team up the road.

“With the success of the women’s program (at IU), we can probably credit a lot of that with our girls wanting to spend time in the gym, wanting to get better,” he said. “Watching them play and having the success they’ve had made our girls want to have success, too.”

Led by IU’s all-time leading scorer Tyra Buss, a role model for Rehmel’s players, the Hoosiers followed up their successful 2016 season by winning the NIT two years later.

During the game at Assembly Hall, Cahill’s freshman year dream became a reality. They were so high up that she couldn’t see their faces, but Cahill felt their support. The Hoosiers had fans all the way at the top of the stands.

“I remember kind of sitting there, taking it all in,” she said. “It was just really special to see how far we had come, and the support we had.”

As for the coach at the helm, Rehmel speaks for the community at large.

“We hope like heck she doesn’t leave,” he said with a laugh. “People absolutely love her.”

Ali Patberg, greatting fans after a game this season, is Indiana's longest-tenured player. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2021 Elite Eight run

Ali Patberg has always loved basketball, to the point of obsession. She had her favorite teams and players — the Pacers, Reggie Miller and Allen Iverson — but she would consume any kind of basketball she could. On the radio in the car, on TV at home, in the gym where her dad coached. It didn’t matter.

Today, Patberg is the face of IU women’s basketball. She loves being a Hoosier so much that it’s hard to imagine her being anywhere else, but the seven-year player (COVID-19, a transfer and injuries gave her extra eligibility) actually started her college career at Notre Dame, the preeminent Indiana women’s program at the time.

By the time she transferred to IU, the Hoosiers were building. They’d made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016, and Patberg was redshirting on the roster due to transfer rules when they won the NIT in 2018.

But Moren wanted to do more. That’s what she told Grace Berger when she went to her house in Kentucky on a recruiting trip.

“She was so adamant that we had all the tools to be one of the best teams in the country,” Berger said. “And that’s what really excited me as a recruit.”

It’s what Moren had been reaching for since she took over in 2014, and what the ‘83 team had been dreaming about since their historic season. Last year, the country finally saw what Indiana had been working toward.

The Hoosiers came into the tournament as a No. 4 seed. They beat VCU in the first round, and then Belmont in the second to reach the program’s first Sweet 16. They followed that up with a 73-70 upset of No. 1 seed NC State to advance to their first Elite Eight.

In Luxembourg, Cahill got up in the middle of the night to watch those games.

Bumgarner was watching too, at her home in California. So was Eksten, in Indiana. Everywhere, players from the ‘83 team tuned in, firing off hundreds of messages in their group text.

“It’s invigorating for us,” Leckie said. “We feel young again. We want to be out on that court, and it makes us remember our playing days.”

“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Metheny said.

Indiana alums at the 2022 Big Ten championship, front row (L-R): Laura “Skeeter” Lounsbury, Amy Metheny. Back row (L-R): Melinda Sparkman, Melissa Leckie, Rachelle "Boz" Bostic, Pam (Mack) Scott and Deb McClurg. (Courtesy of Amy Metheny)

For the current players, it’s hard to stop and reflect on everything they’ve done for the program when, according to Berger, they haven’t accomplished their ultimate goal — adding a women’s basketball banner to the five from the men’s side that hang in Assembly Hall.

And though they don’t dwell on it for long, there’s an understanding that history is being written.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Berger said. “It’s one thing to talk about it as a crew, but to be here for teams that are actually the first to do something in Indiana’s program, that’s really special. It means a lot.”

It’s special for everyone who considers themselves a Hoosier, past or present.

Bostic remembers running sprints during one of her first practices as a freshman at IU. Eager to impress her coach, Bostic ran as hard as she could, beating everyone up the court. Since that day, however tired she was and however fast her teammates were, Jeremiah expected Bostic to finish first in every sprint.

Her teammates knew, too. And sometimes, she says, when she was extra fatigued, they would hold back a little bit so she could still finish first.

It was that level of understanding of one another that helped the ‘83 team achieve greatness, and it’s the same sort of interpersonal awareness today’s IU group brings to the court.

“They are just a really special team,” Bumgarner said. “It’s pretty obvious. It’s not just that they’re winning, but the way they work together, the way they keep fighting.”

It’s senior day at Assembly Hall in February. The lights dim, fans hold up their iPhone flashlights, and Indiana’s intro video plays on the Jumbotron. Patberg, Alexa Gulbe and Waggoner look up to see their faces on the big screen for the last time in the regular season. It’s the perfect scene for a senior celebration.

But Iowa controls the game from the jump. And before long, the Hawkeyes have opened up a double-digit lead. Then, Patberg hits a 3. Then, she drives to the hoop, draws a foul and finishes, cutting the lead down to 28-16. Patberg screams with elation, and chest-bumps a teammate so hard she falls over. One play later, she draws another and-1. This time, Patberg manages to stay on her feet. She walks toward the bleachers, throws her hands in the air and motions for the crowd to get louder. They oblige.

And as the decibels increase, you can feel it. What it means. For a split second, the importance, the love, the passion of IU women’s basketball overtakes the gym, like an overwhelming wave of understanding. Even though IU spends most of the game down by 10 points or more, a win still seems possible. It’s why, when Berger gets a three-point play of her own in the third, with Iowa now leading by 19 points, Bostic rises to her feet. She screams, “Let’s go!” Her WNBA orange hoodie stands out in a sea of candy apple red and snowy white.

It’s why the stands remain full until the bitter end. And why, with two minutes to go, Indiana is suddenly down by just 10. With 12 seconds left, four. It’s why, even when the buzzer sounds and Iowa wins 96-91, the feeling hangs in the air. Because when it comes to women’s basketball at Indiana, anything is possible.

It wasn’t always. But it is now.

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.