Dec. 17, 2013
Tipoff: Just two weeks remain until the start of the 2014 Big Ten season and all 12 squads are looking to finish the non-conference portion of their schedules strong. Indiana is off to an 11-0 start to the year, its best since the 1992-93 season, while each conference squad will carry a winning record into this week’s contests, making the Big Ten the only conference that can claim such a feat. Ten conference teams have seen their scoring average increase from this time a season ago, with the overall Big Ten average increasing by more than eight percent over last year. The Big Ten is the top-rated conference in the RPI, according to RPIratings.com, which lists 10 Big Ten squads among the top 75. This week, eight conference matchups will be nationally distributed on the Big Ten Digital Network.
Undefeated Hoosiers: At 11-0, Indiana is the Big Ten’s final undefeated team and is off to its best start since winning its first 11 games of the 1992-93 season. The Hoosiers are among of group of 14 teams around the nation that enter the week with an unblemished record. On the heels of their winning streak, the Hoosiers are receiving votes in the Associated Press poll, the first time being mentioned in the standings since the 2008-09 season. With its 11-0 start, the Hoosiers have already matched their win total from the 2012-13 campaign.
Still Going Strong: Each conference team will enter the week with a winning record, including 10 squads that have won at least 60 percent of their games this season. The Big Ten is the only conference in the nation with each of its teams carrying a winning record into the week. With Indiana leading the way at 11-0, Iowa’s 10-2 start gives the conference a pair of teams with 10 victories, making the Big Ten one of four conferences entering the week with two or more teams boasting at least 10 wins. At 9-2, Minnesota needs one victory to reach the 10-win mark, while Nebraska and Northwestern are each 8-2 on the year. Purdue is 7-2 overall, Penn State is 7-3 and Michigan is 7-4. Michigan State and Wisconsin are both 6-4 to start the season, Illinois is 6-5 and Ohio State has a 7-6 ledger.
Scoring Is Up: Big Ten teams are collectively scoring at a higher rate as compared to conference numbers from this time a season ago. Through the first 128 games in 2012, conference teams combined to average nearly 68.0 points per game. Over that same time this season, Big Ten squads are averaging 73.9 points per game, which is more than five points higher than the national average through Sunday’s games. Last year, only five teams were averaging more than 70 points per game, none of which were averaging more than 75 points per contest. This season, nine Big Ten teams are scoring more than 70 points per game, six are averaging more than 75 points per contest and the conference leader, Iowa, has averaged nearly 83 points per game this season.
And Their Scoring is Way Up: Of the 10 conference teams who have seen their scoring averages climb this year when compared to this point a season ago, four have increased their scoring output by more 14 percent. Indiana has increased its offensive production by nearly 31 percent over a season ago, as the Hoosiers are averaging 77.2 points per game this season, compared to the 59.0 points per contest they were averaging at this time in 2012. The Big Ten leader in scoring offense, Iowa is averaging 82.9 points per contest this year, nearly a 23 percent increase over its average from 2012 in which the Hawkeyes were averaging 67.4 points a game. Michigan is the third conference team to improve its scoring average by more than 20 percent from a season ago. The Wolverines are averaging 73.5 points per game this season, up more than 21 percent from its 2012 scoring average of 60.6 points per night. Currently second in scoring at 77.5 points per game, Michigan State has increased its offensive productivity by 14.6 percent from this time a year ago in which the Spartans were scoring 67.6 points per game.
Up in the RPI: The Big Ten will carry the top-rated RPI into this week’s games, according to RPIratings.com. Boasting a combined RPI of .6019, the Big Ten claims 10 teams that appear among the rating’s top 75, including six among the top 30. Purdue leads all conference teams at No. 12 in the standings, followed by No. 14 Ohio State, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 22 Penn State, No. 29 Iowa and No. 30 Indiana among the rating’s top 30. In addition to the aforementioned squads, No. 53 Northwestern, No. 60 Michigan, No. 61 Wisconsin and No. 73 Michigan State each appear among the rating’s top 75.
Where We Rank: Five conference teams appear in the latest Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches polls, including four top-25 squads. In the AP vote, Penn State, Purdue and Nebraska hold Nos. 17, 18 and 19, respectively, while Iowa checks in at No. 22. Indiana is among other squads also receiving votes in the media standings. In the coaches rankings, Nebraska leads all squads at No. 17, followed by No. 18 Penn State, No. 21 Purdue and No. 25 Iowa.
Career Milestones: Wisconsin’s Morgan Paige became the eighth active member of the 1,000-point club, now with 1,004 tallies in her career. She joins teammate Taylor Wurtz in the class, making the Badger duo the second set of teammates to have scored 1,000 career points, joining the Purdue tandem of KK Houser and Courtney Moses. Penn State’s Dara Taylor is two assists away from 400 in her career and needs just 10 steals to reach the 200-mark, while teammate Maggie Lucas needs four steals to reach 200 in her career. Minnesota’s Micaëlla Riché is poised to become the seventh active member of the conference’s 500-rebound class, needing just 10 more boards to reach the milestone.
Coaching Landmarks: Three Big Ten coaches could reach landmark career victories in the coming weeks. Now in her 14th season at Iowa, coach Lisa Bluder enters the week needing eight victories to match the school record of 269 triumphs held by current Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. Michigan’s Kim Barnes Arico is one triumph away from recording the 300th victory in her career, while Minnesota’s Pam Borton needs eight wins to reach 300.
Statistically Speaking: Big Ten standouts rank among the national leaders in numerous statistical categories, according to the latest information released by the NCAA. Through Sunday’s games, Penn State’s Maggie Lucas and Illinois’ Amber Moore are the national leaders in free-throw percentage, with Lucas first at 96.8 percent and Moore second at 96.6 percent, while Minnesota’s Rachel Banham is connecting on a national-best 58.8 percent of her three-pointers. Banham is 20th in the NCAA in scoring at 22.2 points per game, while Lucas is 25th at 21.6 ppg. Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. and Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper are tied for 19th nationally with 11.2 rebounds per game, while Zahui is 15th in blocks per game (2.90), followed by Iowa’s Bethany Doolittle and Northwestern’s Nia Coffey, who are tied for 24th (2.67). Iowa’s Samantha Logic is 14th nationally in assists per game at 6.5 and Northwestern’s Ashley Deary is 20th in the nation at 6.3 per contest, while Michigan State’s Kiana Johnson is eighth in the country with a 3.82 assists-to-turnover ratio. A full list of where the Big Ten ranks among the national leaders can be found on the Big Ten blog.
Holiday Hoops: A pair of Big Ten teams will compete in non-conference tournaments surrounding the holiday seasons. Michigan State heads to the San Juan Classic in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the Spartans will take on nationally ranked Oklahoma State on Thursday and Georgetown on Friday. Meanwhile, Minnesota hosts the Subway classic this weekend, taking on UCLA Friday and Auburn Sunday. In addition, Northwestern will travel to New Orleans, La., next week for the DoubleTree Classic to square off with Indiana State on Dec. 28 and either Tulane or Northeastern on Dec. 29.