March 17, 2010
That’s a Big Ten-Four
For the third consecutive year and the 17th time in the last 18 season, at least four Big Ten teams are headed to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State all made trips to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, while the Hawkeyes have appeared in the last three brackets, and the Buckeyes are making their eighth consecutive trip. Wisconsin receives its first NCAA invitation since 2002. The Big Ten is one of five conferences with four or more NCAA bids.
Setting the Record Straight
Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue earned bids to the Postseason WNIT, giving the Big Ten nine postseason teams, tying a conference record. The Big Ten record for postseason teams was set in 2002, when six squads made the NCAA bracket and three more earned trips to the WNIT. The record was tied in 2008 when four teams advanced to the NCAA and five played in the WNIT. The Big Ten has a higher percentage of its teams (82 percent) competing in the NCAA or WNIT than any other conference in the country.
Been There, Done That
Several Big Ten teams are in familiar territory when it comes to postseason competition. Ohio State is making its eighth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship and its 19th overall. Iowa also earned its 19th invitation to the NCAA Tournament and is making its third straight appearance in the bracket. Of the teams in this year’s bracket, only 12 have appeared more often that the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes. Michigan State is making its second straight NCAA appearance, its seventh in the last eight years and its 10th overall. With bids to the WNIT, Illinois is making its 12th postseason appearance in the last 14 years, and Purdue advances to its 17th consecutive postseason.
Feels Like a Long, Long Time
Conversely, other Big Ten teams are finding themselves in unfamiliar positions during the 2010 postseason. Wisconsin is making its first NCAA appearance since 2002, its first under head coach Lisa Stone, and its seventh overall. The Badgers are making their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, having earned bids to the WNIT in each of the past three seasons. Penn State earns its first postseason invite in five years, having last appeared in the NCAA bracket in 2005. The Lady Lions last competed in the WNIT in its inaugural season, 1998. Finally, Northwestern is making its first postseason appearance in over a decade, last receiving an NCAA invitation in 1997. This year marks the Wildcats’ first appearance in the WNIT bracket.
Take Me Higher
With the No. 2 seed in the Dayton Regional, Ohio State earns its highest seed since earning a No. 1 spot in 2006. The No. 2 seed is also the highest for any Big Ten team since Purdue earned a No. 2 seed in 2007. This year marks the 12th time in the last 13 years that at least one Big Ten team has garnered a top-three seed.
How Sweet It Is
A Big Ten team has advanced to the Sweet 16 in 24 of the last 25 years, including three teams in the regional semifinals a season ago. At least one Big Ten team has advanced to the Elite Eight in nine of the last 12 years, including two of the last three.
Illinois’ Jenna Smith, Iowa’s Kachine Alexander and Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis were named regional nominees for the 2010 NCAA Division I State Farm Coaches’ All-America Team, the WBCA announced on Tuesday. The Buckeyes are one of just eight squads with multiple players on the list.
Big Ten teams made history several times over in 2010, in terms of both overall and conference wins. Prior to this season, never before had every Big Ten team finished with 10 or more overall wins or five or more conference victories. At the end of the regular season, every conference squad had 13 or more overall victories and six or more wins during Big Ten play.
New and Improved
Several Big Ten teams posted large improvements in their win totals from 2009, led by Northwestern, who owns its best record since the 1996-97 season. With 16 wins so far in 2010, compared to seven in 2009, the Wildcats boast a turnaround of nine games. Prior to this year, Northwestern had not registered double-digit victories since 1998-99 and had not advanced to postseason play since 1997. Northwestern’s seven wins in Big Ten play is also the program’s highest total since that 1996-97 season. Penn State enters postseason play with 17 wins, which is the program’s highest total since 2004-05 and a six-game improvement from last season. In addition, Michigan has already won seven more games than it did all of last season, while Illinois’ win total has improved by five, and Wisconsin’s has increased by two. The Badgers are enjoying their first 20-win season since 2006-07 and their second since 2000-01.
Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin have all eclipsed the 20-wins plateau, giving the Big Ten three or more 20-win teams for the 11th straight year. Ohio State has reached the marker every season since 2002-03 and has 30 wins for the first time since 2004-05. Michigan State has eclipsed the milestone for the seventh straight season, and Wisconsin is enjoying its first 20-win campaign since 2006-07. Iowa is one win shy of reaching the 20-wins milestone and would give the Big Ten four 20-win teams for the fourth straight season.
Lavender Snares Second Scoring Title
Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender finished the Big Ten season as the conference’s scoring champion for the second straight year. The junior averaged 19.9 points during the 18-game conference slate, becoming the fourth Buckeye to win the stat category in back-to-back years. With Lavender’s most recent accolade, every Buckeye that has earned a scoring title has done so in back-to-back years.
Kachine, the Rebounds Machine
Iowa’s Kachine Alexander earned her first rebounding crown, finishing the Big Ten season with 11.1 per game. She is the fourth Hawkeye to earn the honor and the first since Randi Peterson in 2000-01. At 5-9, she is the shortest player in Big Ten history to win the stat category.
Hawkeye Hits Her Mark
Iowa freshman Morgan Johnson finished the Big Ten season as the conference’s field-goal percentage champion, shooting at a .508 clip. Johnson is the first freshman since Ohio State’s Jessica Davenport in 2003-04 to earn the stat crown. She is the second Hawkeye to finish the season atop the field-goal percentage list.
Making The Cut
Illinois’ Jenna Smith, Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis and Penn State’s Tyra Grant were named midseason candidates for the 2010 Women’s Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T, the organization announced in February. With four players on the list, the Big Ten is tied for second among all conferences, while Ohio State is one of just four schools with multiple players to be named.
Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender continues to claim the longest double-digit scoring streak in the nation. The junior recorded single-game totals of 19, 27 and 35 points at the Big Ten Tournament, increasing her streak to 100 games, which spans the entire length of her career.
Penn State’s Tyra Grant is one of 10 finalists for the 2009-10 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. Student-athletes eligible for the award must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - classroom, character, community and competition.
Students of the Game
Five Big Ten women’s basketball student-athletes were named ESPN The Magazine Academic-All-District, CoSIDA announced in early February, led by Wisconsin’s Alyssa Karel. A junior majoring in nursing, Karel has a 3.85 GPA and was a first-team honoree in District 5. Also earning All-District accolades were Minnesota’s Brittany McCoy and Purdue’s Jodi Howell, Chelsea Jones and Brittany Rayburn, who were second-team selections.
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Big Ten women’s basketball has its sights set on San Antonio, Texas, as the 2010 NCAA Women’s Final Four will be held April 4 and 6 at the Alamodome. The conference has sent five teams to the past 11 Final Fours, including two in the last six seasons. The 2010 championship event will be hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio.