In the world of women’s college basketball, the Big Ten conference remains one of the most competitive. The sheer abundance of talent both individually and collectively is evident considering that six Big Ten teams (No. 4 Iowa, No. 11 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 17 Maryland, No. 22 Nebraska, and No. 25 Michigan) are ranked in the Top 25 preseason rankings. With the regular season approaching, the time has come to highlight 10 players in the conference who are destined to put up numbers and receive various accolades this year. Each player possesses a unique blend of vitality, strength, exuberance, and tenacity.
1) Caitlin Clark (Iowa)
No one better to be placed at the top of these rankings than Iowa junior sensation Caitlin Clark. Coming off a season in which the Hawkeyes won both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, Clark was a major catalyst with her trademark sharpshooting from beyond the arc and sometimes the center logo. She was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Tournament MVP, Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year and the Dawn Staley Guard of the Year. Her relentless competitive drive and leadership have never wavered and with all the pressure on the Hawkeyes to go even further this year, she will be the face of the Big Ten.
2) Monika Czinano (Iowa)
The success of the Hawkeyes last year was due in large part to spirited play of center/forward Monika Czinano. Coming into her fifth and final season, she is determined to go out with a bang. Even as Clark garnered much of the spotlight, Czinano helped the team in various ways. She led the nation in field-goal percentage (67.9) and was sixth in field-goals made (277). Along the way, she was named an AP and WBCA All-American honorable mention and Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Semifinalist. She earned All-Big Ten First Team honors and was a Big Ten All-Tournament Team honoree. Her strength in the paint and on the glass plus her veteran presence make her a must-see talent.
3) Mackenzie Holmes (Indiana)
Holmes was a major factor in the Hoosiers getting their highest seed in the NCAA tournament at No. 3. Along the way she garnered attention for her ability to shoot from the field at a high level (60 percent) and hit the boards (seven rebounds per game). Holmes captured a WBCA All-American Honorable Mention and made the All-Big Ten Second Team and Lisa Leslie Award Top 10 watch list. Knocking on the door of the Top 10 with a younger team to guide, Holmes is counting on her seniority and skill to bring basketball glory back to the Hoosiers.
4) Jacy Sheldon (Ohio State)
Ohio State shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Iowa last year. Much of its success can be attributed to the playmaking of now-senior guard Jacy Sheldon. Averaging 19.7 points per game and 4.2 assists, Sheldon kept the Buckeyes right within reach of the promised land with a Sweet Sixteen appearance. In her final season, Sheldon will utilize her leadership skills and potentially bring hardwood excellence to a university known for gridiron greatness.
5) Rebeka Mikulášiková (Ohio State)
Senior forward Rebeka Mikulášiková of Slovakia has become the Buckeyes’ secret weapon as a remarkable all-around player. She can shoot from the perimeter and dominate in the paint. Last year, she led Ohio State with five rebounds a game and did so in only 20.1 minutes of play. She scored in double figures in 17 games and earned three double-doubles. Now she is looking to cement a legacy that her country can take pride in.
6) Diamond Miller (Maryland)
Tough, tenacious, and talented can best describe Maryland’s senior guard Diamond Miller. After missing 10 of the first 12 games last year due to a knee injury, Miller came back with sheer resilience. She averaged 13.1 points, four rebounds and 2.8 assists. As a result, she earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors and helped take her team to the Sweet Sixteen. This year she is starting healthy and looking to stand out and get the new-look Terrapins across the finish line.
7) Sam Haiby (Nebraska)
Haiby has the distinct honor of being the only Cornhusker in history with 1,000 Points, 500 Rebounds and 400 Assists. Last year, she averaged 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals en route to a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament and All-Big Ten Second Team honors. After recovering from shoulder surgery over the summer and with her legacy still ongoing as a part of an underdog team, Haiby, a graduate student, is looking to establish master status both on the court and in the classroom this year.
8) Isabelle Bourne (Nebraska)
From Down Under to the cornfields of Nebraska, Australia’s Isabelle Bourne will begin her junior season in Lincoln as an established leader both on and off the court. Last year, she received honorable mention as All-Big Ten for the second straight season while averaging 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. She currently has a career total of 843 points and 447 rebounds and is poised to become the 22nd Cornhusker to achieve 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Off the court, she joined the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team, which expects Nebraska student athletes to complete a minimum of six hours of community service projects. To sum up, Bourne exudes the leadership qualities necessary to both win games and change lives.
9) Leigha Brown (Michigan)
Using her COVID year, Michigan guard Leigha Brown will look to capitalize on a previous year of personal achievement mixed with injury. She battled her way through to play in 24 games and averaged 14 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists in just 26.5 minutes per game. Eventually Brown was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team and was a regional finalist for the WBCA All-America team, while the Wolverines were one of the top teams in the country. They got to the Elite Eight for the first time in history. With Naz Hillmon now in the WNBA, Brown will look to use what’s left of her tenure to get the Wolverines back.
10) Jillian Brown (Northwestern)
Even though her team is unranked, Northwestern sophomore guard Jillian Brown is not one to be forgotten. In a debut season in which she managed to be third on the team in scoring average and minutes average at eight and 29.6, respectively, Brown quickly established herself as a talented player with great potential. Even though it is highly likely that the Wildcats will make a huge dent in the Big Ten standings, Brown is at the very least an up-and-coming star who could possibly blossom into something great as she continues to build experience.