Big Ten Women's Basketball Weekly Release - Jan. 2

Illinois' Karisma Penn is the reigning ESPNW and USBWA National Player of the Week.

Illinois' Karisma Penn is the reigning ESPNW and USBWA National Player of the Week.

Jan. 2, 2013

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Tipoff
The 2013 Big Ten season gets underway this week as each conference squad will play two conference foes in the coming days. Each conference team will carry a winning record into Big Ten play, including eight teams with 10 or more triumphs already this season. The Big Ten leads all conferences in the RPI, according to the latest information at RPIRatings.com, and seven teams are receiving votes in one or both national rankings. This week, all 12 Big Ten matchups will be available to a national audience, including Thursday’s Iowa-Ohio State showdown on BTN and Saturday’s contest featuring Purdue and Nebraska on CBS Sports.

Conference Season Begins
Another season of Big Ten Conference play commences this week, with each conference squad having two conference games within the next five days. Nebraska and Illinois will each host conference openers at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, with the Huskers welcoming Wisconsin, and the Illini taking on Purdue. On Thursday, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State each open the 2013 conference season at their home courts. The Hawkeyes take on Ohio State for a 6:30 p.m. ET contest to kick off BTN’s coverage of the Big Ten conference season. Thursday’s remaining contests will tip at 7 p.m. ET, with the Wolverines hosting Indiana, the Spartans welcoming Minnesota, and the Lady Lions facing Northwestern. The complete weekly schedule can be found to the left.

Where We Rank
For the third straight week, seven conference teams are receiving votes in the Associated Press (AP) or USA Today Coaches polls. Four teams are ranked in the coaches poll, with Penn State jumping back into the top 10 at No. 9. Purdue follows at No. 14, with Nebraska 19th and Ohio State 24th, while Iowa is receiving votes. The Lady Lions are also ranked ninth in the writers rankings, while Purdue appears at No. 14 and Nebraska rounds out the poll at No. 25. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are also receiving votes in the AP poll.

Up in the RPI
The Big Ten leads the nation in the RPI, according to the latest information released by RPIRatings.com. Boasting an overall average of .5952, the Big Ten is buoyed by five teams appearing in the top 25 of the rankings, the most of any conference. Penn State paces all conference teams at No. 7 in the rankings, followed by No. 12 Iowa, No. 15 Purdue, No. 23 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State. In total, 11 conference teams appear in the report’s top 100, including No. 59 Nebraska, No. 60 Ohio State, No. 64 Minnesota, No. 78 Wisconsin, No. 87 Illinois and No. 96 Northwestern.

Receiving National Accolades
Illinois’ Karisma Penn earned a host of honors following her 27-point, 19-rebound effort in the Illini’s victory over previously undefeated Georgia last week. The senior won her fifth career Big Ten Player of the Week award and also claimed a pair of national honors by ESPNW and the USBWA. It marks the first National Player of the Week laurels for Penn, who is the lone conference standout averaging a double-double (19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds) this season. Penn is the second Big Ten player to be honored by the USBWA, following Penn State’s Maggie Lucas on Dec. 11.

Winning Ways
Heading into the start of conference play, every Big Ten team holds a winning record, a feat only three conferences that can tout. Michigan State leads all conference teams with 12 victories, while four teams – Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue – each carry 11 triumphs into Big Ten action, and Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State have won 10 games. Indiana has nine victories, Northwestern and Wisconsin each have eight wins and Illinois has seven triumphs heading into conference action. In total, Big Ten teams have combined for 118 victories, or 9.8 wins per squad, a mark which ranks second nationally.

Eight Reach 10 Wins
The Big Ten is one of only two conferences in the nation to have eight or more teams with 10 or more wins this season. Three conference teams reached the 10-wins mark last week, bringing the conference’s total of teams with 10 or more wins to eight. Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State each reached the plateau with wins last week, including Iowa posting a 2-0 mark at the Surf ‘N Slam Classic in San Diego to win the tournament title. The trio joins Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue as conference squads to have won 10 or more contests this season. In addition, three more Big Ten teams can reach the 10-wins mark this week with Indiana needing one win, and Northwestern and Wisconsin each needing two triumphs.

Putting Their Stamp on the Program
The conference’s three new coaches have made immediate impacts in their first seasons on their respective campuses, combining for a 27-11 record in non-conference play. Michigan’s Kim Barnes Arico has guided the Wolverines to an 11-2 non-conference mark for the second straight season. Curt Miller has led Indiana to nine wins, already surpassing the Hoosiers’ wins total from a year ago, and Illinois’ Matt Bollant has Illinois heading into Big Ten play with a 7-5 mark, which includes a victory against previously unbeaten and then-No. 6 Georgia last week.

Statistically Speaking
According to the national statistics released by the NCAA on Monday afternoon, numerous Big Ten standouts appear among the top 25 in various categories. Michigan’s Kate Thompson is the national leader in 3-point field goals per game with 4.0, Penn State’ Maggie Lucas is seventh at 3.3, and Illinois’ Amber Moore is 18th at 3.0. Lucas ranks third nationally in 3-point percentage at 52.6 percent, followed by Thompson in ninth at 48.6 percent and Indiana’s Aulani Sinclair in 17th at 44.7 percent. Penn State’s Alex Bentley is seventh in steals per game at 4.0, Iowa’s Morgan Johnson is ninth in field-goal percentage at 59.3 percent, followed immediately by Minnesota’s Micaëlla Riché at 58.9 percent. Following a school-record 14 assists against Texas last week, Iowa’s Samantha Logic is ninth with 6.9 assists per game, followed by Northwestern’s Karly Roser in 10th at 6.8 and Illinois’ Alexis Smith in 21st at 5.9 per contest. Minnesota’s Rachel Banham is 13th in points per game (21.4), followed by Lucas in 15th (20.0) and Illinois’ Karisma Penn in 23rd (19.8). Penn also ranks 24th in rebounds per game at 10.8, while Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore is 17th nationally with a 2.48 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Approaching Landmarks
Several Big Ten players are poised to pass career milestones in the coming contests. Penn State’s Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas are each within 55 points of reaching the 1,500 career points mark. Penn State’s Nikki Greene needs seven blocks and Ohio State’s Ashley Adams needs 13 blocks to reach the 200 mark in their careers, a feat only Illinois’ Karisma Penn and Iowa’s Morgan Johnson can tout among active players. With 232 career blocks, Penn moved into 10th place on the Big Ten’s career swats list, while Johnson ranks eighth on the conference’s all-time list.

Coaching To Milestones
Three Big Ten coaches are approaching or have recently surpassed career coaching milestones, either overall or at their respective institutions. With a victory over Grambling State last week, Nebraska’s Connie Yori won her 200th game as Nebraska’s head coach, becoming the fourth conference coach to win 200 or more games at their respective school. She also needs just five more wins to reach the 400 career wins mark. Purdue’s Sharon Versyp is three triumphs shy of reaching the 150-wins mark as the Boilermakers’ head coach. Needing three more victories, Iowa’s Lisa Bluder is closing on 600 wins in her coaching career, joining Ohio State’s Jim Foster as the only Big Ten coaches to reach the landmark.

Up For The Awards
Five Big Ten student-athletes are listed on all three major preseason women’s basketball awards lists, appearing on the Naismith Early Season Watch List, the Wade Trophy Watch List and the Wooden Award Watch List. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore, Ohio State’s Tayler Hill and Penn State’s Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas were named to each preseason list. The trophy winners will be announced during the Women’s Final Four in New Orleans, La.

CLASS Acts
Four Big Ten student-athletes were named candidates for the 2012-13 Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. Iowa’s Jaime Printy, Ohio State’s Tayler Hill, Penn State’s Alex Bentley and Purdue’s Drey Mingo were chosen as candidates for the award, and the winner will be announced during the Women’s Final Four in New Orleans, La.

Watch Us Here
The Big Ten will continue to receive extensive national broadcast coverage this season, as approximately 65 games will be televised live nationally through the conference’s media agreements. BTN, ESPN and CBS Sports will televise 47 Big Ten Conference games, while nearly 97 percent of the intra-conference schedule will be available nationally through televised coverage or streamed online at BTN.com. For the sixth straight season, every game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament will be nationally televised.

Tourney Town
For the first time, the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held in the Chicagoland area as this year’s event will be staged at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The 19th edition of the tournament will be held March 7-10, featuring 11 games over four days. Thursday and Friday will feature four games each, with the semifinals contested on Saturday in advance of Sunday’s championship game. The Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament will return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the 2014 event.