For the first time in Big Ten history, four conference schools (Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Michigan) have advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, surpassing the previous record of three Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16, set on four prior occasions (2003, 2004, 2005 and 2009).
This comes on the heels of the Big Ten tying its conference records for both the most teams selected for a single NCAA Tournament (seven; also in 2012 and 2015) and the most teams reaching the second round (five; also in 1995, 2004, 2013, 2014 and 2019).
Collectively, the seven Big Ten schools in this year’s NCAA Tournament have a 9-3 (.750) record, registering the most wins and the highest winning percentage by any conference. It’s the most wins in a single NCAA Tournament for the Big Ten since 2005, when conference teams went 10-5, culminating with Michigan State’s run to the NCAA national championship game.
Maryland is in the Sweet 16 for the 14th time in program history and the first time since 2017. The Terrapins stormed past Mount St. Mary’s (98-45) and Alabama (100-64) in the first two rounds of the tournament, setting a Big Ten record for most points scored (198) in the opening two games at a single NCAA Tournament and defeating consecutive NCAA Tournament opponents by 30+ points for the first time in school history. Maryland also registered its school-record seventh 100-point game this season (tops in the nation) and the most points by a Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament since 2017, when the Terrapins posted a 103-61 first-round win over Bucknell.
Indiana is making its second Sweet 16 appearance, and first since 1983, when the NCAA Tournament was a 36-team event. Prior to this year, the Hoosiers had won a total of three NCAA Tournament games in their history. However, earlier this week, they defeated VCU (63-32) and Belmont (70-48) to earn their place in the regional semifinals, setting a Big Ten record for the fewest points allowed (80) through the first two games of a single NCAA Tournament In addition, Indiana set another conference record for the fewest points allowed by a conference team in any NCAA Tournament game — the previous record had been set in identical 64-33 first-round wins by Penn State in 2003 (vs. Holy Cross) and Minnesota in 2005 (vs. Saint Francis-Pa.).
Iowa is back in the Sweet 16 for the third time in its last four NCAA Tournament trips (2015, 2019, 2021) and the eighth time in program history, having advanced to the Elite Eight in 2019 (Iowa’s first appearance in the regional finals in 26 years). The Hawkeyes, who toppled Central Michigan (87-72) and Kentucky (86-72) in the first two rounds of this year’s tournament, have also earned consecutive Sweet 16 berths for the first time since a three-year stretch from 1987-89.
Michigan secured its first-ever Sweet 16 appearance with wins over Florida Gulf Coast (87-66) and Tennessee (70-55) in the first two rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines had five all-time NCAA Tournament wins in eight previous appearances entering this season, but rolled to two victories in three days earlier this week behind a pair of double-doubles from Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon. The Cleveland native now has 15 double-doubles this year and 34 for her career, the latter tying Ohio State’s Dorka Juhász and Texas’ Charli Collier for the most career double-doubles among NCAA Division I juniors.
Northwestern earned its first NCAA Tournament win in 28 years with its 62-51 victory over UCF on Monday. The Wildcats last prevailed in an NCAA Tournament game in the first round of the 1993 event with a 90-62 win over Georgia Tech. It was the fourth NCAA Tournament victory in Northwestern’s program history (the Wildcats are now 4-8 all-time following their second-round loss to Louisville).
Even in defeat, Big Ten programs have been remarkably competitive this postseason. Of the four losses by conference teams in the NCAA Tournament and WNIT to date, all four have come by single digits and saw the Big Ten team either leading at the start of the fourth quarter or with a possession to tie/take the lead in the final period.
The Big Ten has had at least four 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).
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 sixth 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 six 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.
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.
According to Thursday’s NCAA statistics report, the Big Ten leads all Division I conferences in scoring (73.0 ppg.), field-goal percentage (.438) and assists (15.6 apg.), and is second in three-point percentage (.336).
The Big Ten leads the nation with seven teams among the top 35 in the country (including the country’s No. 1 and 2 teams and three of the top 10) in scoring offense. Maryland is first in scoring at 91.8 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 (10th – 80.2), Indiana (28th – 75.4), Michigan (29th – 75.3), Michigan State (30th – 75.2) and Rutgers (31st – 75.1). No other conference has more than four teams among the top 35 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 Thursday. 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 six programs in the nation’s top 35 in field-goal percentage. Iowa is No. 2 in the nation (.516), followed by Maryland (3rd – .499), Rutgers (14th – .467), Indiana (18th – .457), Michigan (30th – .449) and Michigan State (32nd – .448). No other conference has more than four schools in the top 35 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 (.407), with Maryland in second (.406) and Rutgers at No. 19 (.367). Only one other conference (the SEC) 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 four national leaders), as of Thursday. In scoring, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is first (26.8 ppg.), followed by Michigan’s Naz Hillmon in fifth (24.3 ppg.). In field-goal percentage, Iowa’s Monika Czinano is No. 1 in field-goal percentage (.669), with Hillmon in second (.621) and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes in fifth (.607). In three-point percentage, Maryland’s Katie Benzan is No. 1 (.508) and Rutgers’ Diamond Johnson is seventh (.455). In three-pointers made, Clark is second (3.86) and Benzan is seventh (3.25). In steals, Northwestern’s Veronica Burton leads the nation (3.84 spg.), while Rutgers’ Tekia Mack is 10th (3.00 spg.). And, in assist/turnover ratio, Penn State’s Niya Beverley is second (3.88), Benzan is fourth (3.50) and Burton is 10th (2.86).
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, 2020, 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. More information on ‘United As One’ can be found on page 7 of the PDF version of this release.
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.
Big Ten women’s basketball has played a key role in the growth and development of the Big Ten Equality Coalition, with 12 current women’s basketball student-athletes and coaches serving as members of the Coalition — Kennedi Myles (Illinois), Alexis Sevillian (Iowa), Brenda Frese (Maryland – head coach), Naz Hillmon (Michigan), Kim Barnes Arico (Michigan – head coach), Gadiva Hubbard (Minnesota), Amy Williams (Nebraska – head coach), Carolyn Kieger (Penn State – head coach), Nyagoa Gony (Purdue), Arella Guirantes (Rutgers), C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers – head coach) and Tim Eatman (Rutgers – associate head coach). In addition, several Big Ten women’s basketball alumnae are part of the Coalition membership, including Diane Dietz (Michigan), Lauren Aitch (Michigan State) and Lea B. Olsen (Minnesota).