March 27, 2014
Bound For Regionals: Penn State is preparing for its 13th appearance in the Sweet 16, where it will face No. 2 seed and regional host Stanford on Sunday afternoon. Sunday’s winner will advance to play the winner of No. 1 South Carolina-No. 4 North Carolina on Tuesday night in Palo Alto, Calif. The Lady Lions eye their first regional final since 2004 and can advance to the Women’s Final Four with a pair of wins for the first time since 2000. It is the second time in three seasons that Penn State will compete in the regional round of the NCAA Championship, and marks the 27th time in the last 29 tournaments that at least one Big Ten team has competed in the regional semifinals.
How They Got Here: The Lady Lions opened NCAA Championship play on their home court last week, earning victories against No. 14 Wichita State and No. 11 Florida. In the opening round against the Shockers, Penn State used a 17-0 run to open the second half en route to a 62-56 victory. In Penn State’s second-round matchup with the Gators, Lady Lion seniors Ariel Edwards, Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor combined for 62 points as Penn State secured an 83-61 victory to advance to the regional semifinals.
A Record Postseason: Through the first week of postseason play in the NCAA Championship and Postseason WNIT, Big Ten teams combined for a 14-4 record, including 12 straight triumphs to begin postseason play. The 14 combined postseason triumphs among conference squads are tied for the second most in Big Ten history, one behind the 15 victories in 1999 and matching the total from 2001. All five Big Ten teams participating in NCAA Tournament play won their opening-round games and Penn State secured a second-round win, while the four WNIT participants each won their first two games in the field.
Still Going Strong: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern have each advanced to the round of 16 in the Postseason WNIT after securing wins in their opening games of the tournament. The Hoosiers defeated Belmont in their opener and Marquette in the second round, Michigan earned wins over Stony Brook and Duquesne, Minnesota knocked off Green Bay and SMU and Northwestern notched victories against Ball State and IUPUI. On Thursday, Indiana takes on Northwestern in Bloomington, Minnesota travels to South Dakota State and Michigan heads to Bowling Green, with berths in the quarterfinals at stake. The Indiana-Northwestern winner will take on the Minnesota-South Dakota State winner, while a Michigan victory would send the Wolverines to a quarterfinal matchup against either Rutgers or Seton Hall.
Piling up the Wins: For the first time in Big Ten history, eight conference teams have reached the 20-win mark in the same season. Six Big Ten squads reached the milestone in each of the last two seasons, which along with the 1995-96 season, marked the previous conference high. Iowa completed its season with 27 wins to lead all conference teams and recording the most victories in a single season since the Hawkeyes also won 27 games in 1995-96. Nebraska finished the season with 26 wins, the second-most in school history and the third straight year the Huskers have won 20 or more games. Penn State carries 24 victories into its regional semifinal game, the fourth consecutive year the Lady Lions have won at least 20 games. Michigan State ended its season with 23 victories, its 11th straight year with at least 20 triumphs, while Purdue completed its fourth straight year with 20 or more wins after recording 22 victories this year. Minnesota carries 22 victories into its third-round WNIT matchup, reaching the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Michigan recorded its 20th win of the season last Monday to record the milestone for the third straight year, while Indiana reached the 20-win mark with last Saturday’s win in the second round of the WNIT, marking the first time since the 2008-09 campaign the Hoosiers have reached the 20-win mark.
To the Point: This season, the 12 Big Ten programs have combined to produce 221 70-point outings, including 97 efforts of 80 or more. As compared to the 2012-13 season, conference teams combined for 131 70-point outings, with 56 of those resulting in 80-point performances. Iowa leads all conference programs with 29 70-point games this season, Nebraska has scored 70 or more points 25 times, Penn State has done so 23 times, Purdue recorded 22 70-point games and Michigan State had 20 70-point outings this season. Iowa scored 80 or more points 15 times, Michigan State reached 80 points 11 times and Indiana, Nebraska and Purdue each recorded 10 80-point games this season.
We Are the Champions: Michigan State and Penn State finished tied atop the Big Ten standings with matching 13-3 records to earn a share of the conference championship. The Spartans won their fourth Big Ten Championship in program history and secured their second in four seasons, having also won the conference crown in 2011. The Lady Lions claimed their third consecutive conference title and the eighth Big Ten Championship in program history, which is tied for third among conference programs.
All-Region Honorees: Five Big Ten standouts and one coach were honored when the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced its All-Region Teams and Region Coaches of Year this week. The Region 6 Team consists of Iowa’s Samantha Logic, Minnesota’s Rachel Banham and Amanda Zahui B., Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas, who are now eligible for the 10-member WBCA All-America Team, which will be announced during the Women’s Final Four. In addition, Indiana’s Curt Miller was named Region 6 Coach of the year and is now eligible to earn the organization’s National Coach of the Year honor. Miller earns his fifth WBCA Regional Coach of the year honor, having also earned the distinction in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012 while at Bowling Green.
Showing Their Smarts: The Big Ten announced its winter Academic All-Big Ten honorees this week, a list that features 49 women’s basketball standouts, including one who has maintained an unblemished cumulative GPA. Purdue’s Hayden Hamby, a sophomore majoring in movement and sport sciences maintained a perfect cumulative GPA. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners who are in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. In total, the Big Ten recognized 678 winter sport student-athletes with Academic All-Big Ten accolades.
Tracking Stat Champions: Minnesota’s Rachel Banham became the first Gopher since Carol Ann Shudlick in 1993 to lead the Big Ten in scoring, carrying an average of 23.3 points per game. That is the highest single-season average since Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante averaged 25.1 points per game in 2002. Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. is the first Gopher to lead the conference in rebounding since Janel McCarville in 2005, averaging 11.5 rebounds per game. Ending the year at 8.0 assists per game, Iowa’s Samantha Logic led the Big Ten in the category for the second straight season and recorded the highest single-season average since Penn State’s Helen Darling averaged 8.5 assists per game in 1999. Teammate Bethany Doolittle averaged 3.4 blocks per game, which is the most in a single season since Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan averaged 4.3 in 2007, and became the first Hawkeye to lead the conference in the category since Tangela Smith in 1998.
CLASS Acts: Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas were named finalists for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. A fan vote, combined with votes for media and coaches will decide this year’s winner, which will be announced the Women’s Final Four.