Feb. 14, 2012
Two weeks remain in the regular season, and the race for the Big Ten Championship continues to take shape. Penn State leads the conference standings at 10-3, but four teams are within two games of the Big Ten leader. Four Big Ten teams appear in the top 25 of both national polls this week, and all four ranked squads appear among the top 17 in the AP poll, the only conference to hold that distinction. Two conference squads have reached the 20-wins milestone, while three more have the opportunity to achieve the feat this week. All 11 conference matchups will be televised by BTN or ESPN2 or streamed online at BTN.com.
What to Watch For
Many of the contests on this week’s slate of games may help separate the clustered race for the Big Ten Championship, including two matchups between the Big Ten’s top three teams. Conference leader Penn State will face both Ohio State and Purdue, which are tied for second in the conference standings, this week, while the Boilermakers will also face Michigan State, which is still alive in the championship chase. Michigan, which is tied with the Spartans at 7-5, will face Iowa, which holds an 8-5 Big Ten record, in the second of a BTN doubleheader on Thursday.
Coming Down to the Wire
With all teams having four or fewer games remaining on their conference schedules, the race for the Big Ten Championship and seeding for the Big Ten Tournament could come down to the very end. Penn State leads the conference standings at 10-3, with two conference teams one game back in the win column entering Thursday’s contests. Ohio State and Purdue are tied for second, each with 9-3 marks, while Nebraska is fourth in the standings with an 8-4 mark in Big Ten play. Iowa is two games back, in fifth place at 8-5, while Michigan and Michigan State, both with 7-5 Big Ten records, remain in the hunt for a piece of the conference championship.
Twenty-Win Tandem, Three Others Closing In
Two Big Ten teams have reached the 20-wins mark on the year, while three others could reach the milestone this week. Ohio State leads all conference teams with 22 victories on the year, marking the ninth season in a row the Buckeyes have surpassed the 20-wins barrier. Penn State reached the 20-wins plateau on Sunday, the second consecutive season the Lady Lions have achieved that feat. Nebraska and Purdue each hold 19 victories on the season and would give the Big Ten four teams with 20 or more wins with their next triumphs. The Huskers eye a 20-win season for the fourth time in six seasons, while the Boilermakers seek their 20th season of 20 or more wins since the 1987-88 campaign. Michigan is two wins away from winning 20 or more games for the second time in three seasons.
Ranking Among the NCAA
The Big Ten is one of three conferences in the country to have four or more teams boasting 19 or more triumphs this season, tied with the Big East and behind only the five from the SEC. Ohio State (22-3) and Penn State (20-5) have surpassed the 20-wins mark, while Nebraska (19-5) and Purdue (19-6) are each one triumph away from the milestone. In addition, Michigan improved its season record to 18-7 last week, two wins away from joining Ohio State and Penn State in the 20-wins department.
Up in the RPI
The Big Ten is one of four conferences in the country to have five or more teams appear in the top 35 of the latest RPI released by the NCAA. Ohio State leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 14, while Purdue joins the Buckeyes in the top 25 at No. 22. Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska occupy Nos. 30, 31, and 32, respectively, while Iowa rounds out the top 50 at No. 50.
With tip off at the 2012 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament just about two weeks away teams are jockeying to earn the best seeds in a new bracket format. With the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten Tournament, scheduled for March 1-4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, will now feature 11 games over four days, with the top four seeds in the regular season standings receiving byes into Friday’s quarterfinals. In a change from year’s past, Thursday’s slate of games will now feature four games over two sessions, beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Where We Rank
The Big Ten is the only conference in the country to have four teams ranked in the top 17 of the Associated Press (AP) poll, which was released on Monday. Ohio State climbed into the top 10 of the rankings, moving up one spot to No. 9. Penn State made the largest jump of any team in this week’s poll, moving up six spots to No. 12. Nebraska and Purdue round out the ranked Big Ten teams in the AP poll at Nos. 16 and 17, respectively. In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, Ohio State appears at No. 11, followed by No. 17 Penn State, No. 19 Purdue and No. 21 Nebraska.
Several Big Ten standouts appear among the top 25 of the nation’s statistical leaders, according to information released by the NCAA. Through Sunday’s games, three players appear among the top 25 in scoring. Ohio State’s Tayler Hill is 11th at 21.0 points per game, teammate Samantha Prahalis is 19th at 19.8 and Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper is 20th at 19.7. Two players are in the top 25 in assists per game, with Prahalis leading the charge at 6.7, good for seventh nationally. Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore checks in at No. 19 with 5.5. Michigan’s Jenny Ryan ranks 20th in steals per game at 3.0, followed by Penn State’s Alex Bentley at No. 24, also at 3.0 per game. Hill is sixth in the nation in 3-point percentage at 42.2, Penn State’s Maggie Lucas is ninth at 41.8 percent and Wisconsin’s Taylor Wurtz is 21st at 39.7. Ryan ranks second in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.84) and is followed by Prahalis at No. 19 (2.06). Iowa’s Morgan Johnson ranks 13th in the country in field goal percentage at 54.9 percent and Ohio State’s Ashley Adams ranks 13th in blocks per game (3.0).
With five assists in Ohio State’s game against Purdue on Sunday, Samantha Prahalis brought her career total to 874 and is just 19 away from becoming the conference’s all-time leader in the category. Only the third player with 800 or more helpers in conference history, Prahalis stands in second place on the Big Ten career list. Northwestern’s Nancy Kennelly holds the all-time career record with 892 helpers from 1989-93.
Numerous Big Ten players surpassed career milestones or are poised to do so in the coming games. Iowa’s Morgan Johnson became the 14th active member of the 1,000-points club after her 23-point effort against Minnesota last Thursday, joining Penn State’s Maggie Lucas as the two newest members of the class. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper is 18 tallies away from becoming the 15th active conference player with 1,000 or more points. Northwestern’s Kendall Hackney reached the 500 rebounds mark on Sunday, making her the seventh active member of the 500-rebounds club. Wisconsin’s Taylor Wurtz and Anya Covington, and Purdue’s Sam Ostarello are closing in on 500 career rebounds, each within 30 of the milestone. Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore is closing in on 500 career assists, needing 37 more to join Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis as the only active members of the 500-helpers club. Penn State’s Alex Bentley is just eight steals away from 200 in her career, while Illinois’ Karisma Penn needs six blocks to join the 200-swats club. A complete list of Big Ten milestones can be found on Page 3 of this release.
Welcome Additions to Wade List
Three Big Ten players were added to the Wade Trophy Watch List, bringing the Big Ten total to five on the list. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Ohio State’s Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis were named to the list, joining Iowa’s Jaime Printy and Penn State’s Alex Bentley. The current list of 34 student-athletes will be trimmed to 12 finalists in mid-March, with the winner announced at the Final Four in April.
Two Named To Wooden Midseason List
Two Big Ten players remain in the hunt for the prestigious Wooden Award after being named to the midseason watch list. Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis and Penn State’s Alex Bentley were among 20 players named to the midseason list, which was comprised of athletes based on their performances during the first three months of the season. It is the second such honor for Prahalis and the first for Bentley.