Checking in on the teams in the Big Ten:
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-0, 7-0 Big Ten, No. 1 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
Ohio State continues to show a ton of spirit and fight. The Buckeyes’ best player, Jacy Sheldon, has missed the last 11 games with a foot injury. Meanwhile, Madison Greene has missed the last six games and will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Sheldon is averaging 16 points and six steals on the season, while Greene averaged 10.9 points, five assists and three steals before suffering her injury.
Yet, without these two key pieces, the Buckeyes have remained undefeated. They came back from a program-record 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Illinois last Sunday and the Fighting Illini are no joke as they are ranked No. 24. Taylor Mikesell scored 31 points in the win.
Ohio State added a 76-67 win over Nebraska on Saturday with 25 points, seven boards and two steals coming from Rebeka Mikulášiková.
We just don’t want to lose ♀️ pic.twitter.com/J80om3LnVe— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) January 14, 2023
No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers (15-1, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 1 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
The Hoosiers picked up a huge win over No. 9 Maryland Thursday night and hopefully for them that can erase the memory of the Michigan State loss. It’s also helped keep them a No. 1 seed in ESPN’s Bracketology. Their other quality wins this year have been over Tennessee (projected No. 8 seed), No. 22 UNC, No. 24 Illinois and Nebraska (projected last four in).
Over the past week (two games), Mackenzie Holmes averaged 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.
No. 17 Michigan Wolverines (15-3, 5-2 Big Ten, No. 3 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
The Wolverines lost to No. 12 Iowa last Saturday, but bounced back by blowing out a Purdue team that has had good moments this year. The loss to the then-No. 16 Hawkeyes moved them down three spots in the rankings, but the win over the Boilermakers combined with Maryland’s loss to Indiana raised them from a No. 4 seed to a No. 3 seed in ESPN’s Bracketology. They added a 70-55 win over Michigan State on Saturday. Leigha Brown averaged 19.3 points and 5.3 assists over the three games.
The Wolverines still have the bad loss to Toledo, but their other two losses were to Top 12 teams (Iowa and Ohio State). They have quality wins over RV (six points) South Florida, No. 18 Baylor, RV (10 points) Miami, No. 22 North Carolina and Nebraska (projected last four in). So you can understand why they are a strong candidate for a No. 3 seed over Maryland.
No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten, No. 4 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
Speaking of Maryland, the Terps taking care of a Michigan State team that beat Indiana and played Ohio State within six points is a good sign. However, as has been the case with them over the past couple of years, they can’t seem to break into the top group of teams in the country, remaining very good, but not elite. They were a red-hot No. 2 seed in 2021, but fell in the Sweet Sixteen, where they fell again in 2022. The last time Maryland finished the season elite was in 2020 with Kaila Charles and Ashley Owusu leading the way to a dominating finish and No. 4 end-of-season ranking.
Maryland will not be satisfied until it is back in that Top 4 and makes another Final Four because that is where the bar is set. The Washington Post captured some of Diamond Miller’s reaction to the Indiana game, which would have been a huge win for the Terps:
Diamond Millers was particularly unhappy postgame: "Obviously, I started too late and I need to show up for these type of games. But at the end of the day, we've got to learn from this one.— Kareem Copeland (@kareemcopeland) January 13, 2023
“This one hurts. I am really mad right now, so I'm just trying to calm myself."
Maryland is a lot like Notre Dame, which saw 17 years pass between its first and second championship, and Stanford, which saw 29 years pass between its second and third championship. If the Terps were to win it all this year it would be 17 years since their first title. Both those other programs remained perennial powers with the same coach in those in-between years, as has Maryland. The Terps are just hungry to get over that hump. It’s been hard in recent years with so many key transfers and Brenda Frese should be commended for having Maryland as high as No. 9 right now with all the changes.
No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes (14-4, 6-1 Big Ten, No. 4 seed ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
All good news for Iowa over the last week as the Hawkeyes have bounced back from a New Year’s Day loss to Illinois. They beat Michigan last Saturday and have since blown out Northwestern and Penn State, with the latter victory coming by a score of 108-67 on Saturday. One hundred and eight is the most the Hawkeyes have scored since dropping 115 on Evansville on Nov. 10.
Caitlin Clark averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and nine assists over the three games. Iowa now has two wins over currently ranked teams (Michigan and No. 15 Iowa State).
No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini (14-3, 4-2 Big Ten, No. 7 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
The Fighting Illini already have more Big Ten wins than they’ve had to end a season since 2014-15. They had been a punching bag in the conference, but aren’t messing around this year with a victory over Iowa and near-victories over Indiana and Ohio State. They will try to bounce back from their blown lead against the Buckeyes when they take on Minnesota on Sunday. Kendall Bostic had 27 points and 15 rebounds against Ohio State.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-7, 3-4 Big Ten, “last four in” in ESPN’s Jan. 13 Bracketology)
The Huskers suffered a head-scratching loss to lowly Rutgers, 57-45 last Saturday. They did bounce back by defeating Penn State 80-51 on Wednesday and played Ohio State close on Saturday, but the loss to the Scarlet Knights is concerning. It’s hard to know what to make of Nebraska, which is clinging to a spot in ESPN’s projected tournament field with wins over Mississippi State (projected last four byes), No. 9 Maryland and No. 23 Kansas.
Over the last three games, Jaz Shelly averaged 7.3 assists.
Michigan State Spartans (10-8, 2-5 Big Ten, No. 38 in the NET rankings)
The Spartans played Maryland within nine last Saturday, but have lost three in a row with the other Ls coming 84-80 to Wisconsin and 70-55 to Michigan. The losses have racked up to eight total for the Spartans on the season, but they do still have that big win over Indiana.
Moira Joiner averaged 19.5 points, five rebounds, four assists and 2.5 steals over the Maryland and Wisconsin games.
Purdue Boilermakers (12-5, 3-4 Big Ten, No. 48 in the NET rankings)
The Boilermakers bounced back from losses to Penn State and Michigan with a 65-54 win over Northwestern on Saturday. They took Maryland to the buzzer on Dec. 8, but did not look so good when up against another top Big Ten team in the Wolverines on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see what they can put together over the remainder of the season.
Caitlyn Harper (20 points), Madison Layden (16) and Abbey Ellis (24) were the leading scorers against Penn State, Michigan and Northwestern, respectively.
Penn State Lady Lions (11-7, 2-5 Big Ten, No. 63 in the NET rankings)
The last two games for the Lady Lions have been rough. They’ve lost to Nebraska 80-51 and Iowa 108-67. However, they did get a solid win over Purdue, 70-60 last Saturday, indicating that they can compete in a parity-filled conference. They’ve also played Indiana and Michigan pretty close.
McKenna Marisa had 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists against Purdue, but was held to five, four and one against Iowa.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-9, 1-5 Big Ten, No. 104 in the NET rankings)
The Gophers’ last two results have been losses to teams below them on this list (Wisconsin and Rutgers). Their future looked so bright when they went 21-11 (9-9 Big Ten) in their first season with Lindsay Whalen at the helm (2018-19), but things just haven’t been the same since. This year, a couple bright spots have been playing Virginia within three and beating Penn State in their one conference win. We’ll see if they can snap their four-game losing streak by defeating Illinois on Sunday.
Mallory Heyer averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 boards over the last two games.
Wisconsin Badgers (6-11, 2-4 Big Ten, No. 109 in the NET rankings)
Wisconsin is one of the weaker teams in the Big Ten this year, but how about going 2-0 in its last two games to break free from an 0-4 conference start? The Badgers defeated Minnesota 81-77 last Sunday and Michigan State 84-80 on Wednesday. The win over the Spartans was on the road and, remember, the Spartans defeated Indiana.
The Badgers had a different set of stars in the two wins, proving they can have different people step up on different days. Serah Williams highlighted the stretch with 31 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks against the Spartans.
Northwestern Wildcats (6-11, 0-7 Big Ten, No. 110 in the NET rankings)
The Wildcats are the only remaining winless team in Big Ten play. However, five of their seven conference opponents have been ranked and the other two were Michigan State and Purdue. They have yet to play weaker teams such as Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Rutgers.
Over the last week (three games), Caileigh Walsh averaged 13.3 points and seven boards.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-10, 2-4 Big Ten, No. 159 in the NET rankings)
Like Wisconsin, the Scarlet Knights have followed up an 0-4 start in the Big Ten with a 2-0 stretch. They beat Nebraska last Saturday and Minnesota on Thursday. Kaylene Smikle had exactly 20 points and six rebounds in both wins. The Scarlet Knights face a difficult test in Maryland on Sunday, but only lost to the Terps by 11 on Jan. 2.