With the 2020 NCAA Tournament being canceled on both the men and women’s side due to COVID-19, the season is over. Now, the question for the Purdue Women’s Basketball program is what’s next?
This season could be considered as a disappointment in many ways after the Boilers did not lose anything from their 2018-19 team, returning three All-Big Ten players in Karissa McLaughlin, Ae’Rianna Harris and Dominique Oden, while going 18-14 before the NCAA Tournament and 8-10 during the Big Ten slate. The Boilers were projected by ESPN to be amongst the Last 4 In for this year’s tournament mostly because of their strong non-conference schedule.
In the preseason Purdue was picked by the media and coaches to finish 5th in the conference, yet the Boilermakers went 8-10 which put them good for 9th place in the Big Ten. Their wins mostly came against the bottom of the conference and they did not have very good outings against the top half of the league.
Some of the setbacks this season could be attributed to the injury of Tamara Farquhar at the end of December, Karissa McLaughlin’s shooting struggles after a stellar 2018-19 and the lack of scoring from outside of the team’s “Big 3”.
Some Boilermaker fans have been vocal in conveying their displeasure with coach Sharon Versyp and have called for her time to end as the Purdue head coaching tenure.
Sharon has been the head woman for the Boilermakers for 14 seasons including this past year and had early success in Mackey Arena but has slipped a little as the years have gone by. Including this season, Versyp has compiled a 294-176 record overall and went 136-102 during conference play.
In the first three seasons of her tenure, Versyp led the Boilermakers to two Elite 8 runs and finished in the top three of the conference in each season. After a 15-17 rebuilding year, she took Purdue to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons to earn the nickname “Second Round Sharon” from the Purdue faithful.
The Boilermakers then had their worst season under Sharon in 2014-15 when Purdue went just 11-20 and won only three games in conference play. Over the next two seasons, Purdue was bounced in the first and then second round of the NCAA Tournament but did win 20 games in each season. In 2017-18, the Boilermakers went to the WNIT and lost in the second round. The following year they were invited to the WNIT once again but did not accept the invitation due to the health of the team.
This season they seemed to be heading for the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time during Versyp’s time as a coach but obviously will not be able to compete as it was canceled.
She was hired after a high level of success with both Carolyn Peck and Kristy Curry at the helm in which they went 236-62 over their combined 9 years from 1997-2006. During this time, the Boilers won an NCAA Championship, went to two championship games, two Elite Eight’s, and two Sweet Sixteen’s while not missing the NCAA Tournament at all.
In March of 2017, Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer and still coached the team in the postseason. The diagnosis was early in the process which was huge in her recovery, but the Boilermaker family rallied around Versyp and she beat the terrible disease while being extremely courageous in the process.
As of recently, she has not lived up to the expectations of fans in particular as the Boilermakers have not had the same success as they had early in her coaching tenure. A change could be coming to the program, as she has regressed each season since 2015-16 and with Ae’Rianna Harris and Dominique Oden graduating, could be heading for more tough times.
This program was among the top teams in the conference year in and year out in the 1990s and early 2000s but has fallen off to become just a middle of the pack squad over the past decade. Although coach Versyp has done a lot of great things both on the court and in the community, it may be time to go in a different direction for the best interest of the program. It is not out of the question though for Versyp to coach out her contract which runs through 2022 to allow her to get things back on track.
What do you guys want/think Purdue will do regarding the women’s basketball program?