Jan. 14, 2014
Big Ten Medal of Honor 100th Anniversary Spotlight: Iowa's Morgan Johnson
A two-time All-Big Ten selection and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Johnson was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2013. In her four years in Iowa City, she led the Hawkeyes to four NCAA Tournament appearances. The Platte City, Mo., native was a two-time Capital One Academic All-District honoree. Johnson finished her career as Iowa's all-time leading shot blocker (293), holds the school record for career games played and consecutive games played (130), career starts (129), ranks fourth in career rebounds (886) and ninth in career scoring (1,582). She is currently playing professional basketball overseas.
Tipoff: The third week of Big Ten action opens on Wednesday with 13 intra-conference contests scheduled. Michigan State boasts a 3-0 Big Ten mark and is atop the conference standings, with Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State tied for second with matching 2-1 records. Seven conference teams are receiving votes in the latest national rankings released by the Associated Press and USA Today this week, with 10 conference squads appearing among the top 65 of the latest NCAA RPI report. Each conference contest will be available to a national audience this week, with games televised live by BTN or ESPN2 or streamed online by the Big Ten Digital Network.
A Look at the Standings: Michigan State is the last remaining undefeated team in conference play, holding a 3-0 record entering the week. Four Big Ten squads, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State, are 2-1 on the season. Indiana and Iowa are tied for sixth in the standings with the Hoosiers at 1-1 and Iowa with a 2-2 mark in conference play. Four other squads, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin, are tied for eighth with 1-2 Big Ten records. This week's schedule features 14 contests, which includes two rescheduled games.
The Week That Was: Each winning team scored at least 70 points in the 11 Big Ten matchups last week with Iowa and Michigan State each posting 2-0 marks. Ohio State won its only game of the week, knocking Indiana from the ranks of the unbeaten last Saturday. Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue each recorded 1-1 marks during the second week of conference action. Minnesota scored a season-high 94 points against Northwestern on Sunday, with Iowa, Penn State and Purdue each recording 80 or more points in a game last week.
Quite a Run: Indiana recorded its best start in program history this season, reeling off 14 consecutive victories before falling to Ohio State last Saturday. The Hoosiers' 14-game winning streak to start the year marks the second time in three seasons a Big Ten team has won at least 14 games to begin a season as Ohio State won 15 straight to open the 2011-12 campaign. Indiana was one of the final four teams in the nation to remain undefeated before suffering its first setback. At 14-1, the Hoosiers have their most wins in a season since the 2009-10 campaign and enter this week as one of just 10 teams in the nation that remain undefeated or has just one loss this year.
Where We Rank: Seven Big Ten teams appear in the latest Associated Press (AP) rankings that were released on Monday. Penn State paces the conference contingent at No. 16, followed by No. 18 Nebraska and No. 22 Purdue. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State are among other squads also receiving votes in the AP rankings. Six conference teams appeared in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll, which was released on Tuesday. Nebraska checks in at No. 16, with No. 17 Penn State and No. 19 Purdue also appearing among the poll's top 20. In addition, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State are among other squads also receiving votes in the coaches poll.
Up in the RPI: Ten Big Ten teams rank among the top 65 teams in the latest RPI report released by the NCAA on Monday, making the Big Ten the only conference that can claim such a feat. Purdue climbs three spots and is among the top 10 this week, checking in at No. 8 in the rating. Ohio State jumps five spots to No. 18, followed by No. 29 Iowa, No. 31 Indiana, No. 34 Minnesota and No. 39 Michigan State, which vaulted 21 spots from a week ago. Penn State appears at No. 43, with No. 58 Northwestern and No. 62 Wisconsin and No. 65 Nebraska each ranking among the RPI's top 65.
To the Point: The Big Ten ranks among the national leaders in scoring this season, ranking as one of four conferences whose teams are averaging better than 73 points per game. Big Ten programs are averaging 73.39 points per game, more than five points higher than the national average of 68.18 points per game. Eight conference squads enter the week averaging more than 73 points per game, with Iowa leading all conference teams at 81.7 points per game. Penn State is second overall at 77.3 points per contest, followed by Indiana (77.0 ppg), Michigan State (76.6), Purdue (75.0), Nebraska (74.8), Michigan (73.4) and Illinois (73.2). Scoring has remained steady into conference play as teams are averaging nearly 72 points per contest. Penn State ranks first in the conference at 81.0 points per game during Big Ten play, one of five programs averaging more than 73 points per contest, including four scoring 76 or more per night. Iowa is second at 78.8 points, followed by Purdue and Michigan State at 76.7 points and Minnesota at 73.7 points per game.
Eyeing 2,000: Nebraska's Jordan Hooper looks to etch her name into the Nebraska and Big Ten records book as the senior needs just 10 points to reach 2,000 in her career. She looks to become just the fourth Husker in program history to achieve the feat, but the second in the last four seasons as former standout Kelsey Griffin recorded 2,033 career points from 2006-2010. Hooper would become the second conference player to reach the milestone this season, following Penn State's Maggie Lucas, and the 18th Big Ten standout to achieve the feat. Hooper is the nation's eighth-leading scorer among active players and would become the eighth current standout to reach the 2,000-point plateau.
Coaching Milestones: As a result of Michigan State's 3-0 start in Big Ten play, Spartan coach Suzy Merchant recorded a pair of landmark wins. Following Michigan State's conference-opening victory against Minnesota, Merchant won her 350th career contest, making her the fourth active coach in the Big Ten to reach the landmark. In addition, the Spartans' victory over Nebraska last week marked her 150th Big Ten victory, the fifth-most among active mentors. Also, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico became the sixth active conference coach with 300 career wins. Meanwhile, Iowa's Lisa Bluder can become Iowa's all-time leader in victories this season, needing four more triumphs to match the 269 wins set by former coach C. Vivian Stringer. Two current conference coaches are their program's all-time wins leader, Nebraska's Connie Yori with 227 and Minnesota's Pam Borton with 226 wins. Borton also needs just five victories to reach the 300 career wins mark.
Statistically Speaking: Numerous Big Ten standouts appear among the national statistical leaders, according to the latest information released by the NCAA on Monday. Kiana Johnson ranks third in the country with a 3.70 assists to turnover ratio, while ranking as one of four players among the top 30 in assists per game. She is joined by Iowa's Samantha Logic (eighth, 7.0), Northwestern's Ashley Deary (10th, 6.8), Johnson (20th, 6.1) and Nebraska's Rachel Theriot (27th, 5.9). Minnesota's Amanda Zahui B. is ninth in the nation at 3.25 blocks per game, followed by Iowa's Bethany Doolittle in 11th at 3.0. Penn State's Maggie Lucas is shooting 97.0 percent from the free-throw line this season, which is first in the nation, while Michigan's Siera Thompson is fourth at 94.0 percent and Iowa's Melissa Dixon in 22nd at 88.9 percent. Minnesota's Rachel Banham is 17th nationally in points per game at 21.8, while Lucas is 21st with 21.4 points per contest. Zahui is 15th with 11.3 rebounds per game, while Banham is one of three players among the top 20 in three-point field goal percentage. Banham is seventh at 47.3 percent, Purdue's Courtney Moses is 12th at 45.9 percent and Thompson is 17th at 45.6 percent.