Who will dethrone Ohio State from the top of the throne of the Big Ten Conference? That is something we will find out this season.
The Big Ten has a plethora of programs that will be gearing up for a run to take the championship away from the Buckeyes. The difference this year is that Ohio State is without Kelsey Mitchell. Mitchell was a 3-time Big Ten Player of the Year for the Buckeyes. This season, a new team could become the new Big Ten Champions.
The Big Ten’s Women’s Basketball Week is in its third consecutive year and it gives a chance to experience more coverage of all 14 programs. Furthermore, you hear who the preseason favorites are going into this season. Here’s some of what has been announced:
- The Maryland Terrapins have been picked to win the Big Ten
- Some of the members of the preseason All-Big Ten Team includes Megan Gustafson (Iowa), Kalia Charles (Maryland), Hallie Thome (Michigan), and Teniya Page (Penn State)
- Megan Gustafson has been selected as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year
The Big Ten conference was able to send ten teams to the NCAA Tournament last season. They are looking to repeat that success this season.
Back in August, the conference released its schedule for teams when conference play begins on December 28. Furthermore, this will lead to the 26th Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. The conference tournament will be from March 6-10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
How will teams fare this season? Let us dive in and look at the 14 programs.
Brenda Frese is coming into her 17th season as head coach of the Maryland Terrapins. Frese is looking to win the program’s fourth Big Ten championships in five seasons. Together with her coaching staff, coach Frese will have a great chance of doing that this season.
Maryland was one of the top programs in the conference in terms of scoring. The Terps were 3rd in scoring offense, 1st in scoring margin, and shot the ball well from the field. Frese is bringing a complete program to the floor every night for Maryland. Coupled with the ability to score the basketball, the Terrapins can defend just as well. Maryland was tabbed as the preseason favorite, as previously stated, to win the Big Ten this season. Coach Frese is confident in winning the conference this season. To say nothing of how much talent she has this season would be a disservice to her coaching ability.
Maryland must deal with the departures of Eleanna Christinaki and Kristen Confroy. On the other hand, Frese was able to bring in the 4th best recruiting class in the nation. Shakira Austin, Taylor Mikesell, and Olivia Owens are looking to make an immediate impact for the Terrapins this season. Coupled with the recruiting class, Maryland brings back four of the five starters from last season.
Preseason All-Big Ten team selection Kalia Charles is looking to lead the way for Frese and the Terrapins this season. Equally important, Stephanie Jones, sister of former Terp Brionna Jones, is looking to anchor the post area for Maryland. Look for Brianna Fraser and Blair Watson to make an impact for Maryland this season as well.
The Buckeyes are going to look very different this year under head coach Kevin McGuff. This will be McGuff’s sixth season at Ohio State. The defending Big Ten champions will be looking to replace all five starters from last year’s team. One of those players to be replaced is last season’s Player of the Year in the conference Kelsey Mitchell. Al
ong with Mitchell, Stephanie Mavunga, Linnae Harper, Sierra Calhoun, and Asis Doss have all moved on from the program. The starting five was responsible for 88% of Ohio State’s scoring from last season. Although this may be true, coach McGuff still finds a way to get the best out of his players. This Buckeye team still has some talent returning this season and should make some noise while they defend their championship.
One player to look out for this season for Ohio State is Dorka Juhasz. The freshman forward from Hungary is looking to bring some help inside for Ohio State. Along with Juhasz, keep an eye on Alexa Hart. She will be a vital part in Ohio State’s success this season alongside Karlie Cronin and LaSalle transfer Adreana Miller.
Equally important, the Buckeyes will be in some early season tests as they have games against UConn, North Carolina, and Stanford to start the season. The Buckeyes will be ready to go, and we will be watching to see if they can hold on to the championship this season.
Amy Williams is entering her third season at Nebraska and she is responsible for a tremendous turnaround at Lincoln. The Cornhuskers were able to finish third in the Big Ten last season and they are looking to improve on the results of last season.
Nebraska is one of the 10 teams to make it to the NCAA Tournament last season. Williams is bringing in a good group of players who will look to make more of a splash this season. Nebraska will rely upon a defense that allowed teams to shoot only 37% from the floor last season.
Not only did teams shoot poorly against the Cornhuskers, but also, opponents did not score well enough as well. Nebraska was fourth in scoring defense last season. Coupled with a balance on offense, the Cornhuskers should make a difference this season.
One of the players who will be key for the Cornhuskers this season is Hannah Whitish. The 5-foot-9 junior is the leading scorer from last year’s team. She will be someone who will be the leader of this Nebraska team. Kate Cain is also returning for Nebraska and she will be formidable inside the paint. Averaging 7 rebounds a year ago, Cain will be this year’s anchor in the middle for the Cornhuskers. Look out for Taylor Kissinger to take another step forward this season. Despite missing six games last season, Kissinger was able to average double figures for the Cornhuskers and she will be much improved going into this season.
This is now the beginning of the Lindsay Whalen era at Minnesota…again. The former Minnesota Lynx guard returns to her alma mater as the head coach. While at Minnesota, Whalen was an All-American and led the Gophers to the Final Four in 2004. Now she is returning to bring the same success she had as a player.
Be that as it may, Whalen will be putting in some work to repeat that success. It is never easy for a first-year head coach. With her competitiveness and basketball IQ, Whalen will be prepared to lead the Gophers this season.
By the same token, Whalen will have a skillful roster to work with this season. First thing to remember, Kenisha Bell is returning this season for Minnesota. Bell was a stud last season for the Gophers and is looking to build on what she was able to bring to the table. Look for Gadiva Hubbard to also play a key role this season for the Gophers. Along with the two veteran guards, Taiye Bello will be seen a key force inside for Minnesota as the team was the best rebounding team last year.
The Michigan Wolverines are coming off another 20-win season. Kim Barnes Arico is the winningest coach in the program’s history. Since she has become the head coach of the Wolverines, Michigan has had 20-win seasons in all six seasons.
Along with the 20-win seasons, Michigan has been a part of a postseason tournament in each season under Kim Barnes Arico. One of those appearances included the 2017 WNIT Championship. Coming into this season, Michigan is looking to add another postseason tournament appearance and go further than the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In other words: Michigan will be having another successful season.
Beginning with Hallie Thome, the preseason All-Big Ten selection will be the go-to player for the Wolverines. Katelynn Flaherty is gone from the program and Michigan has numerous newcomers entering. To have that great season, Thome is going to be the focal point. Last season, Thome had a true shooting percentage of 65.8% and she will have to repeat that performance to give Michigan a shot at the Big Ten championship. By the same token, Nicole Munger will also be a key factor Michigan’s success this season.
Going into her 19th season, Lisa Bluder is looking to continue her run of success at Iowa. Since she has been the head coach, the Hawkeyes have been to 13 NCAA Tournaments and 4 WNITs. Iowa has not been in the postseason one time under Bluder and that was the 2006-2007 season.
To put it another way: Iowa has been a model of consistency in the Big Ten. This season should be no different.
To demonstrate this consistent play, look at the play of Megan Gustafson. Last season, the Big Ten Player of the Year led the conference in scoring and was second in rebounding. This year’s preseason conference Player of the Year also had an effective field goal percentage of 71.3. If Iowa wants to continue this run, Gustafson must build on her successful junior season. Along with Gustafson, Tania Davis and Mackenzie Meyer will be looked upon to carry some of the load as well.
Like Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota, Sharon Versyp is coaching her alma mater. It must be remembered that this is Versyp’s 13th season coaching the Boilermakers. Purdue has seen a great run of success since she became head coach. The program has been to the postseason 11 times in 12 seasons under Versyp.
Purdue will have to improve on protecting the basketball this season. Purdue committed 498 turnovers last season and had a turnover percentage of 19%. If this program wants another postseason appearance, they will have to prioritize protecting the basketball.
First thing to remember, Ae’rianna Harris and Dominique Oden will be back this season. Oden is the rock of the Purdue Boilermakers. Harris will be the critical player inside for Purdue this season. The success of this program starts with those two. Another key point, watch out for Karissa McLaughlin. McLaughlin was a good shooter for Purdue and she should leave her mark from beyond the arc this season.
Vivian Stringer is looking to keep Rutgers as a legitimate threat in the Big Ten this season. The Scarlet Knights, since moving to the Big Ten, are 477-267. 243 of those wins have come in conference play. Unfortunately, the past two seasons have been sub-.500 records in the Big Ten for Rutgers.
Although this may be true, Stringer has a chance at history. When Rutgers wins three games, C. Vivian Stringer will join Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer, and Sylvia Hatchell as coaches who have won 1,000 games.
In order to be a threat in the Big Ten, Rutgers must fix the inconsistent play they have seen over the years. For one thing, Rutgers made the postseason the first two seasons in the Big Ten. It is important to realize that Rutgers has finished 10-21 the past two seasons. All things considered, the Scarlet Knights should be better this season. Adding transfer players Sierra Calhoun and Charise Wilson are key to this team.
Teri Moren is back at Indiana for her fifth season and she is becoming a hot commodity in the coaching ranks. Indiana has won 20-plus games for three consecutive seasons. The defending WNIT champions will be coming into this season with a target on their backs.
Moreover, coach Moren is becoming a target for other programs because of the job she has done at Indiana. One thing Indiana will have to address is who will be leaders of the team. Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill have graduated. The Hoosiers will still have a talented roster to work with.
First, Kym Royster and Jaelynn Penn are still on the roster. Those two will be able to fill the shoes left behind by the departures of Buss and Cahill. Look for Grace Berger to be productive in the backcourt with Penn. Also, watch for Aleska Gulbe to be a key player in the frontcourt.
The Michigan State Spartans has missed the postseason once under the leadership of Suzy Merchant. The Spartans are looking to return to the NCAA Tournament this season and they have two key games this season with Virginia and Oregon.
Merchant is bringing a strong roster that is led by preseason All-Big Ten selection Shay Colley. Colley will be the key cog for the Spartans in helping the team reach the tournament. Another key point to remember is that Michigan State needs to improve their 3-point shooting. The Spartans shot 32% from beyond the arc.
Two players to watch out for this season are incoming freshmen Nia Clouden and Kayla Belles. Belles will be key in helping inside for the Spartans. Clouden will key in the backcourt with Colley. Michigan State will be ready to play this upcoming season.
Penn State under Coquese Washington has a consistent culture that has been created. Under Washington, the Nittany Lions have been in postseason play seven times. This includes the WNIT appearance last season. One of the improvements that must be made by Penn State is their shooting. Penn State had an effective field goal percentage of 44.4% last season. Henceforth, the Nittany Lions must shoot the ball from the floor better this season.
On the positive side, preseason All-Big Ten selection Teniya Paige is the glue that can help put it all together for Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a pesky team on defense and made sure they protected the basketball. The team was third in the conference last season in turnovers.
The Northwestern Wildcats have missed the postseason the past two seasons. Head coach Joseph McKeown has been able to lead Northwestern to the postseason five times. As a program, the Wildcats are going to battle to get back to that level of consistency. First, they must improve scoring the basketball. Northwestern averaged 61 points per game. Along with scoring, Northwestern must have a better field goal percentage this season.
In order to see the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats must get exceptional play from preseason All-Big Ten selection Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah. She must continue to put up double doubles for Northwestern. Look out for Lindsey Pulliam. The sophomore was the leading scorer last season and she should look to be more aggressive this upcoming season.
Nancy Fahey was able to experience her first taste of Division 1 basketball last season. It was her first season as head coach at Illinois. The Fighting Illini was able to start last season strong in the non-conference. Unfortunately, that play did not transfer over when Big Ten play began. Illinois must perform well in conference play in order to see some success in the Big Ten.
Brandi Beasley has been the focal point of Illinois since her freshman year. Beasley will have some help this season from Mckenzie Blazek and Alex Wittinger. These two forwards will be important inside for the Fighting Illini this season.
Wisconsin is entering its third season with Johnathan Tsipis as the head coach. The Badgers will be rebuilding this season. Tsipis is a coach who can help this turnaround for Wisconsin. He will be able to give this group some new strategies to get wins this season. One thing to remember, Marsha Howard will be back for Wisconsin this season.
Offense was not Wisconsin’s strength last season and it is one of the various aspects of the game this team must improve on. The Badgers were in dead last season in scoring and did not shoot the ball well from the free throw line. If Wisconsin is looking to make some dents in the armors of the top programs, this team has to see some vast improvements as the season goes on.
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