BIG 10 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK
· For the 20th consecutive season (not counting the 2019-20 campaign that ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic), the Big Ten is sending at least eight of its women’s basketball programs to postseason play. Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Rutgers will compete in the NCAA Tournament, while Nebraska will represent the conference in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
· The Big Ten’s seven NCAA Tournament qualifiers ties a conference record for most schools selected in a single season, matching the totals in 2012 and 2015. The Big Ten has now had at least four of its schools selected for NCAA Tournament action every year since 1986, with this year marking the 16th time in the past 20 NCAA Tournaments at least six current Big Ten members have advanced to the Big Dance. Current Big Ten programs have advanced to the NCAA Women’s Final Four 15 times (most recently by Maryland in 2015) and have won two national championships (Purdue – 1999; Maryland – 2006).
· Maryland leads all current Big Ten schools in NCAA Tournament appearances, with the Terrapins competing for the 28th time this year. They are followed by Iowa and Purdue (26 each), while Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers all have 25 NCAA postseason appearances.
· For the 13th time in the past 15 NCAA Tournaments, Maryland is a top-four seed, earning a No. 2 seed this year. Meanwhile, Indiana (No. 4 seed) and Michigan (No. 6 seed) both earned their highest-ever NCAA Tournament seeds as part of six Big Ten schools who collected top-eight seeds.
· Big Ten schools have also enjoyed success in the WNIT, with current conference programs reaching the tournament semifinals 16 times (including the past six tournaments with Rutgers in 2014, Michigan in 2015, 2016 and 2017, Indiana in 2018 and Northwestern in 2019) and winning the WNIT championship six times (Penn State – 1998; Wisconsin – 2000; Ohio State – 2001; Rutgers – 2014; Michigan – 2017; Indiana – 2018).
· Top-seeded Maryland earned its second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title and fifth in seven seasons as a conference member with a 104-84 victory over sixth-seeded Iowa in the championship game on March 13 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It was the highest-scoring title game in the tournament’s 28-year history, both for one team and combined.
· Maryland won its fifth Big Ten Championship (and fourth outright title) in its seven years as a conference member, finishing this year’s Big Ten slate with a 17-1 record, one game clear of Indiana. The Terrapins are the third program in conference history to win five Big Ten Championships in a seven-year span and the first since Ohio State earned six straight titles from 2004-05 through 2009-10. Maryland is 109-13 all-time (.893) in Big Ten regular-season conference games and 19-2 (.905) in Big Ten Tournament games.
· The 2020-21 all-conference teams and individual awards were announced March 8 on BTN’s Twitter channels. Michigan junior forward Naz Hillmon was named Big Ten Player of the Year by the conference coaches and a select panel of Big Ten media members, marking the first time a Wolverine has won the conference’s top player honor. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the conference coaches and media, the sixth Hawkeye and first since 2010 (Jamie Printy) to earn top freshman honors, while Penn State’s Maddie Burke took Sixth Player of the Year accolades. Maryland’s Brenda Frese took home Coach of the Year honors from her colleagues as well as the media, the fourth time she has earned that award (2002 while at Minnesota, as well as 2015 and 2019). In addition, the Big Ten coaches and media selected the Wildcats’ Veronica Burton as Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row. The all-conference teams and awards can be found on page 5 of this release.
· Northwestern set a Big Ten record for conference play with a +9.50 turnover margin, shattering the previous record of +8.2 set by Iowa in 1990. In fact, the Wildcats are the first Big Ten program in 25 years to finish a conference season with a turnover margin of +7.0 or better (Wisconsin was the most recent school to reach that mark with a +7.5 margin in 1996).
· Two other conference records nearly fell during the 2020-21 Big Ten season. Iowa’s .520 field-goal percentage was second-best in conference history, just missing Ohio State’s record-setting .521 mark during the 1984-85 conference season (OSU also shot .520 in 1987-88). Also, Maryland averaged 89.3 points per game, second-best in Big Ten history and not far off its 2016-17 record (89.7 ppg.).
· Indiana finished second in the conference standings with a 16-2 record in Big Ten play following its 74-59 win over Purdue on March 6 in Bloomington. The Hoosiers set a program record for conference wins in a season (previous mark was 15-3 in 1982-83, their first Big Ten title season), posted their highest conference finish since that same ’82-83 season, and their 29 Big Ten victories in the past two years are the most in program history during back-to-back seasons (previous high: 26 in 1982-83 and 1983-84, going 11-7 the latter season).
· Rutgers matched its highest conference finish since joining the Big Ten (third; 10-3) following its ninth consecutive win to close out the regular season, a 71-63 victory over Ohio State on March 5. The Scarlet Knights, who also finished third in the Big Ten in 2018-19, are on their longest regular-season conference winning streak since 2005-06, when RU went 16-0 in BIG EAST play en route to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
· Seven Big Ten programs, the second-most of any Division I conference, are appearing in the March 15 Associated Press and/or Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today Top 25 polls. Both Indiana and Michigan set program records for their highest rankings in both polls earlier this season, with the Hoosiers rising as high as No. 9/9 (March 8-9), while the Wolverines rose to No. 11 on two occasions.
· Nine different Big Ten teams have been ranked or receiving votes in one or both polls this season, with Rutgers the seventh Big Ten school to crack the Top 25 this year after its No. 25 ranking in the AP poll on Feb. 22.
· According to the March 15 NCAA statistics report, the Big Ten leads all Division I conferences in scoring (73.0 ppg.), field-goal percentage (.437) and assists (15.7 apg.), and is second in three-point percentage (.335).
· The Big Ten leads the nation with eight teams among the top 30 in the country (including the country’s No. 1 and 2 teams) in scoring offense. Maryland is first in scoring at 91.3 points per game, on pace to not only set a school record, but become the first Big Ten program to lead the country in scoring since the NCAA begin sanctioning the sport in 1981-82. The Terrapins are followed by Iowa (2nd – 86.6), Ohio State (11th – 80.2), Indiana (24th – 76.1), Rutgers (27th – 75.6) and Michigan State (30th – 75.2). No other conference has more than three teams among the top 30 in the nation in scoring offense.
· Continuing the theme of high-powered offenses, the Big Ten not only has three teams scoring more than 80 points per game, but half (7) of the conference schools are averaging better than 75 points per game, as of March 18. The Big Ten has never finished a season with seven teams averaging 75 ppg. — the closest the conference came was in 1995-96, when five of the (then) 11 Big Ten programs averaged more than 75 ppg. (Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin).
· The Big Ten is also tops among all conferences with four programs in the nation’s top 25 in field-goal percentage. Iowa is No. 1 in the nation (.515), followed by Maryland (3rd – .493), Rutgers (13th – .467) and Indiana (21st – .456). Only one other conference has four schools in the top 25 nationally in field-goal percentage (the ACC, whose group includes a Duke squad that cancelled its season after four games).
· The Big Ten’s shooting prowess extends to the three-point line as well, where three conference programs are among the top 25 in the nation in three-point percentage (including two of the country’s top three three-point shooting teams). Maryland is No. 1 in the nation in that category (.407), with Iowa in third (.404) and Rutgers at No. 22 (.365). Only one other conference has threeschools in the top 25 nationally in three-point percentage.
· The Big Ten features at least two of the nation’s top 10 in no fewer than six separate NCAA statistical categories (including four national leaders), as of March 18. In scoring, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is first (26.7 ppg.), followed by Michigan’s Naz Hillmon in fourth (25.1 ppg.). In field-goal percentage, Iowa’s Monika Czinano is No. 1 in field-goal percentage (.678), with Hillmon in second (.637) and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes in seventh (.603). In three-point percentage, Maryland’s Katie Benzan is No. 1 (.506) and Rutgers’ Diamond Johnson is 10th (.450). In three-pointers made, Clark is second (3.81) and Benzan is sixth (3.38). In steals, Northwestern’s Veronica Burton leads the nation (4.04 spg.), while Rutgers’ Tekia Mack is ninth (3.13 spg.). And, in assist/turnover ratio, Penn State’s Niya Beverley is second (3.88) and Benzan is fifth (3.19).
· The Big Ten set a new conference record for the best non-conference winning percentage in regular-season games in a single campaign, currently at .846 (44-8) — the previous record came last year when conference teams went .788 (123-33). This year’s record includes three non-conference Top 25 wins — Maryland 115-96 over No. 14 Arkansas on Nov. 29 (a Big Ten record for points against a ranked team); Michigan 76-66 at No. RV/23 Notre Dame on Dec. 3; Iowa 82-80 over No. RV/24 Iowa State on Dec. 9.
· On Oct. 23, the Big Ten Conference announced the launch of the ‘United As One’ social justice campaign. ‘United As One’ is among several conference-wide Equality Coalition initiatives dedicated to constructively and collectively recognizing and eliminating racism and hate in our society by creating resources for inclusion, empowerment and accountability.
· The Big Ten Conference established the Equality Coalition in 2020 with 227 members including presidents and chancellors, directors of athletics, coaches, student-athletes, conference and school administrators, alumni, families and friends representing all 14 institutions.