The women’s college basketball slate is starting to pick up and conference play is beginning to weave out who will be representing their respective homes in the NCAA Tournament. One conference starting show that is not top heavy is the Big Ten.
Since the commencement of the season back in November, teams in the Big Ten Conference are continuing to shine a light on the league. The conference has numerous teams take positions in the Top 25 as the season rolls on (at the time of this writing):
- #9 Maryland
- #17 Iowa
- #18 Minnesota
- #23 Michigan State
- #25 Indiana
Not only are there various teams representing the Big Ten in the Top 25, even more are still competing to show the strength of the conference.
In addition to the teams, the players are beginning to come into their own and showcase the talent night in and night out.
Gustafson is the best?
The Iowa Hawkeyes are having a great season up this point and they are not slowing down as conference play rolls along. One of the reasons is because of senior post player Megan Gustafson. The product of South Shore High School in Port Wing, Wisconsin is displaying how dominant she has been since the start of the season.
As of January 11, Gustafson is averaging 25.9 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 70% from the field. Along the way, she is setting records at Iowa that are going to be difficult to top once she graduates this year.
Albeit in a loss to Michigan State, Gustafson was able to pass Ally Disterhoft as the all-time leading scorer in the program’s history. After that, in the third quarter of the same game, the senior was able to top Roy Marble as the school’s all-time leading scorer (men’s and women’s).
Megan Gustafson was the Big Ten Player of the Year last year. Up to the present time, she may repeat and take home the honor again.
Maryland is still the team to beat
The Maryland Terrapins, at the start of the season, are the favorites to win the Big Ten this season and so far they have been playing like it.
Head coach Brenda Frese is creating a solid team that is making a great case for outsiders of being a national championship contender. Above all, Maryland will always
- Rebound the basketball (41.3 rebounds per game, 9th in NCAA)
- Shoot the ball from beyond the arc (37.2% 3FG%, 26th in NCAA)
- Defend at the rim (85 blocks, 11th in NCAA. 5.7 blocks per game, 10th in NCAA)
- Share the basketball (267 assists, 20th in NCAA. 17.8 assists per game, 20th in NCAA)
Different from most teams, the Terps rely on numerous players to be important contributors to the on-the-court success. Significantly, the attack begins and ends with senior guard Kalia Charles. The Preseason All-Big Ten selection is averaging 16.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 48.7% from the field.
Frese looks to Charles for leadership on the court and she will deliver. Two other players who set the tone for Maryland are Stephanie Jones and Shakira Austin. The two post players, particularly, drive the force on the inside for Maryland. Jones and Austin combine to average 17.3 rebounds per game. The duo are also combining to average 6.6 offensive rebounds.
Coach Frese, who was able to notch her 500th win against Nebraska, appreciates all her players.
“The people I’ve been so fortunate to coach, and to be able to have so many great staff members… The video was very long, so you would think I’ve been coaching for a very long time. But it was very special,” Frese stated to the Associated Press.
Look for Maryland (15-1. 4-1) to continue their run towards the Big Ten championship.
Here comes The Scarlet Knights
As of January 11, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are sitting in first place in the Big Ten. C. Vivian Stringer has the players playing some great basketball.
The way Rutgers is getting it done this season is on the defensive end. Right now, Rutgers is the best scoring defense in the Big Ten. Teams are scoring 52.6 points per game against Rutgers. For this reason, the Scarlet Knights are the fast track to win the Big Ten regular season title. Although this may be true, they will have to improve their offensive output. As of January 11, Rutgers is shooting 42.5% from the field. Second, the Scarlet Knights have an effective field goal percentage of 47.3% (both are 9th in the Big Ten).
The numbers, indeed, only tell half the story about this team. Coach Stringer makes sure her players are ready to go when it is game time. When you watch the Scarlet Knights, this team is playing hard on both ends of the floor. From getting hands in the passing lanes, moving the basketball crisp to find the open player, attacking the basket smart and aggressive, this team is ready to win the Big Ten.
Now that Rutgers is healthy, they will be a tough out for any team in the country. After the win over Maryland back on December 31, Stringer was able to note how important it is to have the full roster.
“We have really been practicing with the full complement of players for about two weeks,” she stated to the Associated Press. “You could see different lights, different things that would happen, and think, ‘Man if we can get all these people on the floor at the same time.’…So we’ve all come together at this special spot to make something special happen.”
From those mentioned above to the play of the other programs in the conference, the Big Ten is on a high right now. Expect more competitive basketball as the season progresses on.
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