Jan. 21, 2014
Tipoff: Three teams are tied atop the conference standings heading toward the halfway point of the Big Ten season, with 10 conference teams entering the week with at least 12 victories. In addition, 10 Big Ten programs are among the top 65 in the latest RPI released by the NCAA, with seven rated within the top 40. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas cracked the conference’s top 10 list in career points last Sunday, while numerous conference standouts are among the Big Ten’s statistical leaders in multiple categories. Eleven conference games appear on this week’s schedule, with each set to be nationally televised by CBS Sports or BTN or streamed online by the Big Ten Digital Network.
A Look at the Standings: Three teams are tied atop the conference standings entering the middle portion of the Big Ten season. Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State hold matching 4-1 records in the conference standings, one game ahead of fourth-place Nebraska. Iowa and Purdue are tied for fifth with 3-3 ledgers, while four teams, Indiana, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin, are tied for seventh with 2-3 Big Ten records. Last Sunday, Penn State went on the road to defeat then-conference unbeaten Michigan State to pull the Wolverines and Lady Lions even with the Spartans at the top of the standings.
Up in the RPI: Ten Big Ten teams appear among the top 65 of the latest RPI, released by the NCAA on Monday afternoon, including seven among the top 40. Purdue leads all conference teams in the ratings at No. 10 and is joined in the top 40 by No. 30 Ohio State, No. 32 Penn State – which jumped 11 spots from a week ago, No. 35 Michigan State, No. 36 Indiana, No. 38 Minnesota and No. 39 Iowa. In addition, Wisconsin appears at No. 58, with No. 62 Nebraska and No. 64 Michigan also among the RPI’s top 65.
Where We Rank: For the second week in a row, seven Big Ten teams are receiving votes in the weekly Associated Press (AP) or USA Today Coaches polls. Penn State leads all conference teams at No. 13 in both polls, jumping three spots in the AP vote and four places in the coaches rankings after going 2-0 last week. Nebraska checks in at No. 18 in the coaches poll and No. 21 in the AP vote, while Purdue appears at No. 20 in the coaches rankings and No. 22 in the AP poll. Four teams appear among the squads also receiving votes in the writers rankings, with Michigan and Michigan State among the first four outside the top 25, with Indiana and Iowa also receiving votes this week.
Ten With 12 or More: Ten conference teams carry 12 victories into this week’s slate of games, including a pair of teams that have won 15 contests. Indiana and Iowa lead all conference teams with 15 victories this season, marking the first time the Hoosiers have reached that milestone since the 2009-10 season and the seventh straight year the Hawkeyes have achieved the feat. Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue each have 13 victories on the season, while Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State carry 12 triumphs.
Pointing Up: With its teams averaging 73 points per game, nearly five points higher than the national average, the Big Ten ranks among the national leaders in scoring this season. Entering this week, 10 conference squads are averaging more than 70 points per game this, including five scoring more than 75 points per contest. Iowa ranks among the top 20 in the nation, averaging 81.2 points per game, buoyed by four players among the conference’s top 30 individually. Michigan State and Penn State are each averaging 75.9 points per game, with Nebraska (75.6 ppg) and Indiana (75.1) also averaging more than 75 points per contest. Purdue (74.3), Illinois (72.7), Michigan (72.7), Minnesota (70.8) and Northwestern (70.2) round out the 10 conference teams averaging better than 70 points per game.
Cracking the Top 10: Following her 16-point performance in a road win against Michigan State last Sunday, Penn State’s Maggie Lucas cracked the top 10 of the Big Ten’s all-time scoring leaders. Now with 2,193 career tallies, Lucas moves into 10th place on the conference list, surpassing former Purdue standout Stephanie White. Lucas is within 100 points of Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen, who is eighth with 2,285 points, and Purdue’s Shereka Wright, who is ninth at 2,251 career tallies. Lucas is also closing in on the conference record for three-point field goals, needing 30 more to surpass the record of 357 set by former Lady Lion Kelly Mazzante.
Making an Impact: Numerous Big Ten freshmen are making impacts for their teams in their first season on campus. Seven newcomers enter the week ranked among the top 30 in scoring, led by Indiana’s Larryn Brooks, who is fourth overall at 17.8 points per game, while Northwestern’s Nia Coffey is ninth at 15.6 points per night. Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. is the Big Ten leader in rebounds (11.0) and blocks (3.2) per game, one of three freshman among the top 10 in rebounding and one of two among the top five in blocks. Coffey is sixth in rebounding (8.3) and tied for third in blocks (2.3), while Michigan State’s Aerial Powers is eighth in rebounding (8.1). Northwestern’s Ashley Deary is the Big Ten leader in assists per game at 7.1, while Brooks is sixth with 4.3 per game.
Versatility Shows: As many as 14 Big Ten players appear among the conference’s top 10 in multiple statistical categories, including Northwestern’s Nia Coffey, who is ranked among the top 10 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks. Purdue’s KK Houser appears among the Big Ten leaders in scoring, assists and steals. Twelve other players are among two of the top 10 scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks or steals leaders, including Illinois’ Amber Moore, Indiana’s Larryn Brooks, Iowa’s Samantha Logic, Michigan State’s Aerial Powers, Minnesota’s Rachel Banham and Amanda Zahui B., Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper, Northwestern’s Ashley Deary, Penn State’s Talia East and Dara Taylor, Purdue’s April Wilson and Wisconsin’s Michala Johnson. Detailed Big Ten stat leaders can be found on bigten.org.
Wooden is Watching: Three Big Ten players were named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 List, the third most among all conferences. Minnesota’s Rachel Banham, Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas were each named to the midseason watch list for the annual trophy awarded to the nation’s top player. It is the second straight year Lucas was named to the midseason list, while Banham is one eight non-seniors to make this year’s top 20.
Floor Generals: Two Big Ten women’s basketball players were named to the 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List, it was announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Iowa’s Samantha Logic and Northwestern’s Ashley Deary represent that conference on the list. The award recognizes the top point guard in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball. Candidates exhibit the floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.