Big Ten Women's Basketball Season in Review
May 1, 2014
Nine Teams in the Postseason: For the fourth time in conference history, the Big Ten sent nine teams to postseason competition. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue earned berths to either the NCAA Championship or WNIT fields. The Big Ten last sent nine teams to postseason play in 2010, while also doing so in 2002 and 2008.
Room For Five: For the 15th time in the last 21 seasons, and fourth consecutive, the Big Ten had five teams participate in the annual NCAA Championship. Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue represented the conference in the postseason event. All five teams made at least their third straight appearance in the field, with Iowa having participated in its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament. Each team won their opening round game, while Penn State advanced to the regional semifinals, marking the 27th time in 29 years the conference has sent at least one team to the Sweet 16.
Highly Regarded: The five Big Ten teams in the NCAA Championship field were each seeded sixth or higher in their respective regionals, making the Big Ten one of two conferences with five or more teams earning at least a No. 6 seed. Among the conferences with five or more teams selected to the field, the Big Ten carried the highest average seed at 4.4. Penn State was the No. 3 seed in the Stanford Regional, while Michigan State carried the No. 5 seed. Nebraska was the No. 4 seed in the Lincoln Regional, Purdue was the No. 4 seed in the Notre Dame Regional and Iowa was seeded sixth in the Louisville Regional.
That's a Big 10-4: Four conference squads appeared in the 64-team WNIT field, with each advancing to at least the third round. Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern each earned bids to the field and were victorious in their first two games of the tournament. The Hoosiers advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinal round.
Winningest Postseason: During the 2014 postseason, Big Ten programs combined for 15 NCAA Championship and WNIT victories, tied for the most postseason wins in conference history. Every conference squad won at least one game in tournament play, leading to 12 straight victories to start postseason competition. All five Big Ten teams participating in the NCAA Tournament won their opener, with Penn State advancing to the regional semifinals, while each of the four WNIT participants won their first two games in the tournament, with Indiana advancing to the tournaments quarterfinals. The 15 postseason victories ties the total from 1999 and 2001.
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 their second in the past 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.
Cornhusker Champions: Nebraska took home the 2014 Big Ten Tournament title for the first conference tournament crown in program history. The Huskers averaged 79.3 points per game in their three games, outscoring their opponents by an average of 16 points per game. Nebraska was led to the tournament crown by senior forward Jordan Hooper and sophomore guard Rachel Theriot. Hooper averaged 22 points and eight rebounds per game in the Huskers’ three tournament games, including a 33-point effort in the quarterfinal win over Minnesota. Theriot tallied 18.6 points and 10 assists per game, including a career-high 18 helpers in the victory over the Gophers. Theriot registered a tournament-record 30 assists in three games en route to Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament honors.
Piling up the Wins: For the first time in Big Ten history, eight conference teams 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 and recorded 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 ended the year with 24 victories, 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. Minnesota had 22 victories, reaching the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Michigan finished the season with 20 wins, reaching the milestone for the third straight year, while Indiana completed its season with 21 wins, marking the first time since the 2008-09 campaign the Hoosiers have reached the 20-win mark.
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.
Record-Setting Efforts: Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas ended the 2013-14 campaign as Big Ten single-season record holders in rebounding and free-throw percentage, respectively. Zahui corralled 394 rebounds, breaking the previous mark of 387 set by Illinois’ Jenna Smith in the 2009-10 campaign. Lucas finished the year shooting 94.9 percent from the free throw line, besting the previous mark of 92.5 percent shared by Indiana’s Cyndi Valentin in 2003-04 and Iowa’s Jaime Printy in 2012-13. Lucas completed her career as the conference’s all-time leader in free-throw percentage and three-pointers, finishing her career at 90.7 percent from the line, while converting 365 career three-pointers, passing the marks held by Purdue’s Courtney Moses (90.0 percent) and Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante (357), respectively. Moses ended her career ranked second in career free-throw percentage at 90.6 percent.
Attendance Figures: The Big Ten established a new single-season record for total attendance this season, welcoming 852,053 fans to conference arenas, breaking the previous record of 773,446 set in 2006-07. It marks the 14th straight year the conference has surpassed the 650,000 mark in total attendance and ninth time in the last 11 years Big Ten programs have welcomed more than 700,000 fans to its arenas in a season. According to the latest NCAA attendance report, nine conference teams finished the year in the top 35 in total attendance and four teams welcomed more than 100,000 fans this season. Nebraska ranked eighth nationally after welcoming 110,892, followed in the top 10 by Purdue (ninth, 110,825) and Michigan State (10th, 107,177), while Ohio State was 12th nationally at 103,163. Penn State (14th, 97,511), Iowa (21st, 79,108), Wisconsin (27th, 58,739), Minnesota (28th, 55,563) and Indiana (35th, 49,021) appear among the nation’s top 35 total attendance leaders from the 2013-14 campaign.
To the Point: This season, the 12 Big Ten programs 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 led all conference programs with 29 70-point games this season, Nebraska scored 70 or more points 25 times, Penn State did so on 23 occasions, 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.
Where We Rank: In the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll of the season, four conference teams appeared in the top 25 with another just outside the rankings. Penn State led the way at No. 14, with Nebraska checking in at No. 17, followed by No. 19 Purdue and No. 23 Michigan State. Iowa is the first team appearing outside the rankings. Five conference teams appeared the final Associated Press rankings, led by No. 13 Nebraska, followed by No. 14 Penn State, No. 17 Purdue, No. 19 Iowa and No. 20 Michigan State. It marks the first time in Big Ten history five conference teams have been ranked in the final polls.
Earning All-America Accolades: Six conference standouts earned All-America accolades at season’s end, as announced by various organizations. Penn State’s Maggie Lucas appeared on three such squads, being named to the US Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-America squad, earning third-team honors by the Associated Press (AP) and honorable mention status by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper was selected to the WBCA All-American team and named a second-team performer by the AP. Iowa’s Samantha Logic and Minnesota’s Rachel Banham earned honorable mention status from the AP and WBCA, Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. earned honorable mention distinction from the WBCA, while Nebraska’s Rachel Theriot was named an honorable mention performer by the AP.
Ready for the Big Stage: Two Big Ten standouts were selected in the 2014 WNBA Draft, marking the 17th time in 18 years multiple conference players were selected in the annual event. Nebraska's Jordan Hooper was chosen with the first pick in the second round, going 13th overall to the Tulsa Shock, while Penn State's Maggie Lucas was selected 21st overall by the Phoenix Mercury. Both earned Big Ten Player of the Year accolades as seniors this past season. Hooper becomes the second Husker in as many years to be selected in the draft, following Lindsey Moore, who was taken in the first round by the Minnesota Lynx in 2013. Hooper is the sixth Husker in program history to be selected in the draft. Lucas gives Penn State three WNBA Draft choices in the last two years, joining Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene from a season ago. Overall, 15 Lady Lions have been selected in the draft's history.
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.
Showing Her Smarts: Michigan’s Nicole Elmblad was named a second-team Academic All-American, becoming the second Wolverine in team history to garner Academic All-America honors. Elmblad is the only junior to appear among the first and second teams, and was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten honoree last season.
Hitting the Books: 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.
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.