March 14, 2012
Big Ten Weekly Release
Seven Headed to NCAA Tournament
For the first time in Big Ten history, seven conference teams were selected to the 2012 NCAA Championship. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue will represent the conference in the tournament, giving the Big Ten seven NCAA-bound squads, one more than the previous record of six, which was set in 1996, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The seven Big Ten teams selected to the field are tied for second-highest total, behind only the eight chosen teams from the Big East and the SEC. Penn State and Purdue are both four seeds in the field, Nebraska earns a No. 6 seed, and Ohio State is a No. 8 seed. Iowa is a No. 9 seed, Michigan State appears on the No. 10 line, while 11th-seeded Michigan rounds out the conference contingent.
Minnesota Also Headed to Postseason Play
Minnesota was also selected to take part in postseason competition, becoming the first Big Ten program to play in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI). Now in its third year, the WBI fields a bracket of 16 teams with games played at campus sites. The Gophers, one of two No. 2 seeds in the field, host Charleston Southern on Friday in the opening round, and a win would send Minnesota into Sunday’s second round for a matchup against the Bradley-Tennessee Tech winner.
Roaring to the Top
After defeating Minnesota in its regular-season finale, Penn State secured sole possession of the Big Ten Championship, the Lady Lions’ first outright title since the 2003-04 season. It marks the sixth Big Ten title in Lady Lion history, having also won titles in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2003, and the first under fourth-year head coach Coquese Washington.
Purdue Clinches Automatic Berth
For the eighth time in the 18-year history of the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue was crowned the tournament champion after knocking off Nebraska in double-overtime, 74-70 in the championship game. It was the Boilermakers’ first tournament title since 2008, and the program improved its all-time record in the postseason event to a conference-best 34-10. Led by tournament Most Outstanding Player Brittany Rayburn, Purdue defeated Michigan State in the quarterfinals, before knocking off Penn State in the semifinal round.
Piling Up the Wins
For only the third time in Big Ten history, six conference teams have reached the 20-wins mark, with another within one victory of the milestone. The seven conference teams boasting 19 or more victories this season makes the Big Ten one of only four other conference nationally with seven or more teams having won at least 19 games this year. Ohio State leads all conference teams with 25 wins entering the postseason, while Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue each claim 24 victories this season. Michigan and Michigan State each reached the 20-wins milestone with their victories in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa is just one triumph away from giving the Big Ten seven teams with 20 or more wins this season, which would be a new conference record.
Where We Rank
Four Big Ten teams appeared in the latest Associated Press (AP) and ESPN/USA Today rankings, which were released on Monday. Big Ten Champion Penn State leads the conference contingent in each poll, checking in at No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 12 in the coaches rankings. Big Ten Tournament Champion Purdue follows at No. 13 and No. 15. Ohio State (No. 16 AP/No. 18 coaches) and Nebraska (No. 17/22) round out the ranked conference squads.
Prahalis Named Wooden Award Finalist
Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis was named one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, it was announced on Wednesday. The award, which honors the nation’s most outstanding player, will be presented on April 6 at the annual Wooden Award Gala. Voted the Big Ten Player of the Year, Prahalis finished as the conference’s second-leading scorer at more than 20 points per game. She also finished the season with a conference-best 6.4 assists per game, became the Big Ten’s all-time career leader in the category during the Big Ten Tournament. Now with 2,001 points in her career, Prahalis is the 15th player in Big Ten history to surpass 2,000 career points.
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. 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.
Washington Up For USBWA Coach of the Year
Penn State’s Coquese Washington was named to the 10-member United States Basketball Writers Association of America Coach of the Year watch list, it was announced last week. Washington led the Lady Lions to their first Big Ten Championship in eight seasons in 2011-12 and was named conference Coach of the Year by both her peers and the media after leading the team to a 24-6 record overall and a 13-3 mark in Big Ten play.
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. Four players appear among the top 25 in scoring. Ohio State’s Tayler Hill is 14th at 20.3 points per game, teammate Samantha Prahalis is 15th at 20.4, Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper is 23rd at 19.2 and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas is 24th at 19.1. Prahalis also ranks in the top 25 in assists per game with 6.4, good for 10th nationally. Michigan’s Jenny Ryan is 16th in steals per game at 3.1, followed by Penn State’s Alex Bentley in 20th also with 3.1. Two Big Ten players rank among the top seven in three-point percentage with Hill fifth at 41.6 percent and Lucas seventh at 41.1 percent. Ryan ranks fourth in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.54), Iowa’s Morgan Johnson ranks 10th in the country in field goal percentage at 54.6 percent and Ohio State’s Ashley Adams ranks 12th in blocks per game (2.9).
Conference Stat Champions
The Big Ten crowned its 2011-12 stat champions in conference games only following the conclusion of the Big Ten season. Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis won the Big Ten scoring title with an average of 22.5 points per game, marking the third time in four years a Buckeye has led the conference in the category. Her 22.5 points per game average is the highest since Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante averaged 25.1 points per game in the 2001-02 season. Prahalis also finished as the conference leader in assists per game, averaging 5.9 per outing to become the first player in conference history to lead the Big Ten in assists four years in a row. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper emerged as the Big Ten’s leading rebounder this season, finishing with an average of 9.6 boards per contest.