The 2021 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament marks the 28th in conference history. This will also be the 24th time the tournament will be played in Indianapolis, which will serve as the host city for the event through 2022.
Maryland earned its third consecutive Big Ten title and sixth overall (fourth outright) in seven seasons as a conference member with a 17-1 record in Big Ten play. The Terrapins are 109-13 all-time (.893) in Big Ten regular-season conference games, and bring a 16-2 (.889) record in Big Ten Tournament games, including four tournament titles and two runner-up finishes in six prior appearances.
The Big Ten Conference announced March 4 that it will allow a limited number of fans to attend the 2021 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. Following approval by the Marion County Health Department, the decision to allow a limited capacity of 2,500 attendees was made jointly by the Big Ten Conference Directors of Athletics and the Council of President and Chancellors in consultation with the conference office. A limited number of single-session tickets are now on sale to the general public through Ticketmaster. Further details can be found at bigten.org/wbbt.
The 2020-21 all-conference teams and individual awards were announced Monday 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 also be found on page 5 of the PDF version 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.
The Big Ten is tied for top honors among all NCAA Division I conferences with six schools in the top 25 and second with eight in the top 45 of the latest NCAA NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings released Monday. The current NET rankings are listed on page 3 of this release.
Six Big Ten programs, the second-most of any Division I conference, are appearing in the latest Associated Press and/or Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today Top 25 polls. Of note in this week’s AP poll, No. 7 Maryland, No. 9 Indiana and No. 19 Rutgers have earned their highest media rankings this season, with Indiana’s AP poll position also the highest in program history.
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 Monday’s NCAA statistics report, the Big Ten leads all Division I conferences in scoring (74.0 ppg.), field-goal percentage (.439) and assists (15.6 apg.), and is second in three-point percentage (.338).
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 – 87.4), Ohio State (11th – 80.2), Indiana (20th – 76.8), Michigan (26th – 76.4), Rutgers (27th – 76.4) and Michigan State 28th – 75.7). 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 Monday. The Big Ten has never finished a season with eight 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 five programs in the nation’s top 25 in field-goal percentage. Iowa is No. 1 in the nation (.519), followed by Maryland (4th – .490), Rutgers (11th – .472), Indiana (23rd – .458) and Michigan (25th – .457). Only one other conference has even three schools in the top 25 nationally in field-goal percentage.
The Big Ten’s shooting prowess extends to the three-point line as well, where three conference programs are among the top 20 in the nation in three-point percentage (including the country’s top two three-point shooting teams). Iowa is No. 1 in the nation in that category (.420), with Maryland in second (.412) and Rutgers at No. 20 (.373). Only one other conference has three schools in the top 20 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 five national leaders), as of Monday. In scoring, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is first (27.4 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 (.657), with Hillmon in second (.645) and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes in seventh (.600). In three-point percentage, Maryland’s Katie Benzan is No. 1 (.516) and Rutgers’ Diamond Johnson is 10th (.464). In three-pointers made, Clark is first (4.00) and Benzan is fourth (3.57). In steals, Northwestern’s Veronica Burton leads the nation (4.15 spg.), while Rutgers’ Tekia Mack is eighth (3.21 spg.). And, in assist/turnover ratio, Penn State’s Niya Beverley is second (3.88) and Burton is seventh (3.03).
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.