UPDATE: Indiana will host Ball State in the opening round Thursday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The winner of that game will play the winner of IUPUI-St. Louis, at a site to be determined later.
A fourth-place finish in the Big Ten wasn’t enough to secure Indiana an NCAA tournament berth this year.
The selection committee selected four of the Hoosiers’ conference foes for the field of 64, including Maryland (No. 3 seed), Ohio State (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 9) and Purdue (No. 9). Michigan, the conference’s third-place finisher, did not make the field, either.
IU now heads for the WNIT. This is the eighth time the Hoosiers have played in the WNIT, most recently in 2013-14, which was Curt Miller’s final season as coach. This will be Moren’s first WNIT berth at IU and her third overall; she made the WNIT in her last two seasons at Indiana State.
This is not the result the Hoosiers were aiming for coming into the year, immediately following the program’s first NCAA tournament win in 33 years. Returning all five starters, including seniors Alexis Gassion, Karlee McBride and Jenn Anderson, Moren talked about the importance of a return to March Madness.
“In order for us to have any sort of shelf life, we are going to have to put a couple of years together of being consistent with winning and hopefully getting into the tournament, and that is a really difficult thing,” Moren said in November. “We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves from that perspective, but we are excited to have the expectations. I don’t think that any competitor would ask that they don’t have that on them.”
IU learned how hard it is to repeat this season. Moren again scheduled a difficult non-conference slate, but the Hoosiers dropped games to Auburn, Western Kentucky and North Carolina State. They beat Florida, a team previously ranked in the top 25, but the Gators finished the season below-.500.
For the first time in program history, the Hoosiers posted a second consecutive 20-win season, but their resume lacked big wins. Michigan was IU’s only win over a top 25 team, and the only victory over a team in the RPI top 50. But the Wolverines lost four out of their last five games and also dropped out of the tournament in one-and-done fashion.
The Hoosiers’ big losses — a road defeat to lowly Nebraska and a second-half letdown against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament — came late in the season.
In the end, the Hoosiers lost out to the Boilermakers, who went on to upset OSU in the next round. It seems the committee pretty much agreed with the computers, which graded the Big Ten as the sixth-best conference in the NCAA. The conference champion, Maryland, ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll, received the Big Ten’s highest seed (No. 3).
At-large bids also went to Auburn, despite a 17-14 record. The Tigers play in the Southeastern Conference, though, which has six teams in the RPI top 25, and they beat IU in a head-to-head matchup. The committee also picked Northern Iowa, which was ranked No. 52 in RPI, but did not win the Missouri Valley Conference.
IU finished No. 51 in RPI, but that wasn’t enough.