BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Ali Patberg knows tomorrow isn't guaranteed.
After having March Madness stripped away from the team last season, she's going to enjoy every opportunity she gets to take the floor with her teammates.
Wednesday marks the first game for the Hoosiers since March 7 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the Big Ten Tournament.
Tomorrow, Nov. 25, No. 16 Indiana will open its season at home against Eastern Kentucky at 1:30 p.m. ET.
"Every day with the virus isn't given," Patberg said Tuesday. "We never know what's gonna happen, so we're just thankful for one day at a time. Tomorrow we get to play somebody. We've been working really hard all summer, during quarantine, and to finally get to face someone else is really exciting."
Eastern Kentucky has already made its way to Bloomington, and even had a practice in Assembly Hall on Tuesday.
Indiana head coach Teri Moren has some history with Eastern Kentucky's head coach Samantha Williams. Both Moren and Williams were on the Butler coaching staff in 1998.
"Sam and I go way back," Moren said. "This is her second year at EKU. She was a terrific assistant Louisville. We know how good the Louisville women have been for awhile. She's been on that staff."
Williams had a successful first season at EKU. The Colonels went 11-18 in 2019-20. They improved their win total last season by nine games for the fourth largest turnaround in Division I.
They are returning their second-leading scorer and rebounder in senior Bria Bass (8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), while also adding seven new faces this season. Redshirt senior center and leading rebounder I’Lyah Green is also back for the program (7.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
Meanwhile for the Hoosiers, they are a returning a major core of their players.
Eleven of the 14 players on the roster were a part of the squad last season that went 24-8 and were bound for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, Indiana checks in at No. 16 in the preseason Associated Press Top-25 poll, which is the highest preseason ranking in program history.
"Rankings for our team don't matter because we obviously haven't played a game yet," Patberg said. "We're focused on winning games, and that's all that matters."
Indiana is waiting for Nicole Cardano-Hillary to get a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play this season, and freshman Kiandra Browne is dealing with an injury that will keep her out for the first game of the season.
But aside from those two, the Hoosiers should have everyone else available on Wednesday. That includes Jaelynn Penn, who had surgery in the offseason to repair her plantar fasciitis.
"Jaelynn has been in practice, and she's been full-go," Moren said. "I would anticipate seeing her tomorrow come tip time at 1:30 out there on the floor."
The Hoosiers have high expectations for themselves and are planning to play fast and stretch the floor.
The work they've put in during the offseason and all the uncertainty around the season will at least be behind them for one game as the season finally gets set to begin.
"We're gonna go out there and play hard, execute our game plan and play with enthusiasm," Patberg said. "Because, again, we don't know if tomorrow is given, so we're gonna go out and have fun."
- VIEW FULL WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE: To see the full 2020-21 Indiana women's basketball schedule, CLICK HERE
- WOMEN'S BASKETBALL RANKED 16 IN AP POLL: This is the program's highest ranking ever. CLICK HERE
- A LOOK INTO ALEKSA GULBE'S SUMMER IN LATVIA: Junior forward Aleksa Gulbe spent the summer in her home country of Latvia, and there were times where didn't know if she could come back to Bloomington. CLICK HERE