There is no question that the women's basketball team is struggling. After losing to Indiana (a team it had already beaten by 22 points on January 4th) last night, the Boilers are now 10-12 overall and a dismal 3-8 in Big Ten play. Unless there is a miracle run in the Big Ten Tournament the ladies will miss the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in the last 21 seasons. Yeah, we're not exactly Connecticut or Tennessee, but under Carolyn Peck and Kristy Curry the Boilers were damn close. They won a national title, were runner-up two years later, and were a legitimate Final Four threat almost every season.
Coach Versyp has been mostly successful, at least by the standards of other programs, but this is the one program at Purdue where we can afford to be picky. We expect Big Ten championships and deep tournament runs. From the 1993-94 season through 2005-06 (Kristy Curry's last season) here is what Purdue did:
- 1999 NCAA Championship
- 2001 NCAA Runner-up
- 1994 Final Four
- All three of these under three different coaches (Lin Dunn, Peck, and Curry)
- Six regular season Big Ten championships
- Five Big Ten Tournament Championships
- Three Elite 8 appearances (In addition to the Final Fours)
- Eight Sweet 16 or better finishes
It is not a stretch to say that Purdue was one of the best programs in the country, and was only a step below the heavyweights. Since then, the Boilers have faltered slightly and fallen a level or two. Under Versyp:
- Two Elite 8 appearances (in first three years with Curry's players)
- Five NCAA Second round finishes
- No conference regular season titles
- Four conference tournament championships
- 1 missed NCAA Tournament in 2009-10 (while adding this year)
- No Sweet 16 finishes
Yeah, those are great for many women's programs, but not at Purdue. That is underachieving. The Boilers used to be the class of the Big Ten. Now they are sliding further and further back.
The one thing that might save Versyp is her recruiting. She currently has the No. 8 ranked class in the country according to ESPN. It is her first top 20 class at all dating back to what I can find on ESPN. She is adding three five-star players from within the state of Indiana, which is huge when you consider that Notre Dame has been getting the state's top talent for some time now. Notre Dame is still getting the top player in the state, but this incoming class could be a major difference maker.
The truth is, something has to be different. This year's team is the worst Purdue has seen in decades. It is one thing to lose to really good ranked teams like Maryland and Rutgers, but Indiana? Green Bay? George Washington? We have a freaking national title within the last 20 years. We're supposed to be above that but the program has clearly regressed.