Feb. 21, 2012
In the final week of the regular season, Penn State has earned a share of the conference championship and can claim the outright crown with a win on Sunday or an Ohio State loss to Minnesota on Thursday. The Lady Lions boast a 12-3 conference mark and have secured the top overall seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament. As many as five Big Ten teams can close the regular season with 20 or more victories, while six Big Ten teams appear among the top 45 in the latest RPI report. Four conference teams appear in the top 25 of the Associated Press (AP) poll, while several Big Ten players remain in the hunt for national awards. This week, 11 conference matchups will be televised by BTN or steamed online at BTN.com.
Penn State Claims Share of Title
For the first time in eight years, Penn State clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Championship following its victory over Ohio State on Monday night. It marks the sixth Big Ten title in Lady Lion history, but first since they claimed the outright title in 2004. With a 12-3 record in conference play, Penn State also secured the top overall seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament, where it looks to advance to the tournament championship game for the second straight season.
Twenty-Win Trio, Two Others Closing In
Three Big Ten teams have reached the 20-wins mark on the year, while two others will reach the milestone with their next win. Ohio State leads all conference teams with 23 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 Feb. 12, the second consecutive season the Lady Lions have achieved that feat. Nebraska recorded its 20th victory of the season on Sunday against Wisconsin, the fourth time in six season the Huskers have reached the 20-wins mark. Michigan and Purdue each hold 19 victories on the season and would give the Big Ten five teams with 20 or more wins with their next triumphs. The Wolverines eye a 20-win season for the second time in three years, while the Boilermakers seek their 20th season of 20 or more wins since the 1987-88 campaign.
Piling Up the Wins
The Big Ten is one of four conferences in the country to have at least five teams boasting 19 or more triumphs this season, Ohio State (23-4) Penn State (22-5) and Nebraska (20-6) have met or surpassed the 20-wins mark, while Michigan (19-8) and Purdue (19-8) are each one triumph away from the milestone. In addition, Iowa and Michigan State are closing in on the 20-wins mark, needing three triumphs each to reach the milestone.
Up in the RPI
Six Big Ten teams appear in the top 45 of the latest RPI released by the NCAA on Monday, the third-highest total of any conference in the country. Ohio State leads the Big Ten contingent at No. 19, while Penn State appears at No. 24 and Purdue checks in at No. 30. Michigan is rated 37th in the latest rankings, while Iowa jumped nine spots to No. 41 this week. Nebraska gives the Big Ten its sixth top-45 teams, appearing at No. 42 this week.
With tip-off at the 2012 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament just about one week away, teams are jockeying to earn the top 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 will now feature four games over two sessions, beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Where We Rank
The Big Ten continues to have four teams ranked in the Associated Press (AP) poll, tied with the ACC for the second-most top 25 teams. Ohio State moves to No. 8 this week, its highest spot in the polls since Jan. 3, while Penn State is up to No. 11 for the second time this season, having also checked in at No. 11 on Nov. 15. Purdue and Nebraska also appear in the top 25, with the Boilermakers at No. 22 and the Huskers at No. 23. In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, Ohio State appears at No. 14, followed immediately by Penn State at No. 15. Nebraska is ranked 23rd, while Purdue is the first team outside the top 25 receiving votes.
Ranking Among the Nation’s Best
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, four players appear among the top 25 in scoring. Ohio State’s Tayler Hill is 11th at 21.3 points per game, teammate Samantha Prahalis is 17th at 19.8, Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper is 18th at 19.7 and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas is 21st at 19.4. Prahalis also ranks in the top 25 in assists per game with 6.7, good for eighth nationally. Michigan’s Jenny Ryan ranks 24th in steals per game at 3.1, followed by Penn State’s Alex Bentley at No. 25 with 3.0 per game. Hill is third in the nation in three-point percentage at 44.4, while Lucas is sixth at 43.1. Ryan ranks sixth in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.63) and is followed by Prahalis at No. 21 (2.06). Iowa’s Morgan Johnson ranks 12th in the country in field goal percentage at 54.6 percent and Ohio State’s Ashley Adams ranks 14th in blocks per game (2.9).
With eight assists in Ohio State’s game against Penn State on Monday, Samantha Prahalis brought her career total to 882 and is just 11 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.
Looking To Finish on Top
With one week remaining in the conference season, the Big Ten will crown its 2011-12 stat champions by week’s end. Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis leads the conference in scoring at 21.3 points per game and is on pace to become the third Buckeye in four years to lead the Big Ten in scoring. Her 21.3 points per game average would be the highest since Ohio State’s Jessica Davenport averaged 21.7 points per game in the 2004-05 season. Prahalis looks to make it four straight years of leading the conference in assists, leading the Big Ten with an average of 6.3 per game this season. At 10.0 rebounds per game, Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper is on pace to claim the rebounding title and become the first Husker to be crowned a Big Ten statistical champion.
Numerous Big Ten players surpassed career milestones or are poised to do so in the coming games. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper became the 15th active member of the 1,000-points club after her 19-point effort against Northwestern on Thursday, joining Iowa’s Morgan Johnson and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas as the three newest members of the class. Wisconsin’s Taylor Wurtz and Purdue’s Sam Ostarello are closing in on 500 career rebounds, each needing six boards to reach the milestone, while Badger Anya Covington is 32 boards from the landmark. Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore is closing in on 500 career assists, needing 29 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 three steals away from 200 in her career, while Illinois’ Karisma Penn needs four blocks to join the 200-swats club. A complete list of Big Ten milestones can be found on Page 3 of this release.
Two Named Lieberman Award Finalists
Two Big Ten guards were named finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guards, it was announced last week. Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore and Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis were two of eight players chosen as finalists, who were selected based on their leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills. The winner will be announced during the Final Four weekend.
Still in the Hunt
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. Two conference players, Bentley and Prahalis, also remain in the hunt for the Wooden Award. The winners for both awards will be announced in April.