Indiana women ranked for first time in 21 years

DOUG FEINBERG (AP Basketball Writer)
The Associated Press

Curt Miller figured it was going to be a long rebuilding project when he took over Indiana last season. Maybe it won't take as long as the veteran coach thought.

The undefeated Hoosiers earned their first Top 25 ranking in nearly 21 years Monday when they entered the poll at No. 22.

''We're ahead of schedule,'' Miller said in a phone interview. ''Last year we think we overachieved at 11-19. Coming into this year we were predicted to finish 12th in the conference because we graduated our three leading scorers. To do what we've done already in year two is great, but our long journey is far from being over.''

There wasn't much celebration of the ranking on campus as Indiana (14-0) was closed for the storm that was blasting the Midwest. Being in the Top 25 is something expected in the basketball crazed state - on the men's side that is. The men's program has been ranked for a total of 175 weeks since the women's only previous appearance in the poll.

Earning the first ranking since more than half his players were born is a great accomplishment for Miller's team.

''We're really excited now,'' he said. ''We are just in the baby steps of rebuilding this program where it needs to be. We're off to a good start and there is great chemistry in the locker room.''

Miller's has seven freshmen on his roster, including three who start. Larryn Brooks leads the way averaging 18.8 points and has been stellar in her rookie season. The first-year players are accounting for 73 percent of the offense - tops by far among BCS teams according to STATS.

While the first-years are putting up the points, Miller credits a changing culture as a big reason for the success. The Hoosiers finished last in the Big Ten in Miller's first season and the second-year coach said that cliques hampered team chemistry last year.

''We have a great locker room dynamic,'' Miller said. ''The seniors have a sense of urgency and they needed the freshman class to help them. The freshmen needed the seniors to teach them how to be a college player.''

The togetherness is evident in Indiana's play in close games and on the road. The Hoosiers are 6-0 on the road - the most wins since the 2008-09 season. The six road games also ties for the most among BCS schools according to STATS. The Hoosiers have also won six games by seven points or less.

''I'm really proud of our effort on the road,'' Miller said. ''It's really helped us bond as a group.''

Miller and his team will have a little extra time to savor their first ranking since 1993.

Indiana was supposed to play at Purdue on Monday night but the game was postponed because of the severe weather hitting the area. No immediate makeup date was announced, meaning the Hoosiers' first game as a ranked team will be at home on Saturday against Ohio State.

''It's up to the conference, we've given a few of our preferential dates,'' Miller said of making the game up. ''Our bye dates don't match up so someone's going to have a week of one-day preps. Some program is going to be crunched hard.''


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