Dec. 26, 2013
Tipoff: Each Big Ten team looks to complete its non-conference schedule on a strong note as the 2014 Big Ten season is set to begin on Jan. 2. Every conference squad carries a winning record into the final week of 2013, with Indiana one of just seven teams in the country that boasts a perfect record. Several conference standouts posted some of the Big Ten’s best individual performances of the season last week, including Iowa’s Samantha Logic recording the conference’s second triple-double of the season. Four Big Ten teams are among the top 25 in the national rankings, while 10 conference teams are rated among the top 75 in the RPI, according to RPIRatings.com. Five conference matchups will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network.
Indiana Keeps Rolling: Indiana is one of just seven teams in the nation that still maintains an unblemished record this season, carrying a 12-0 mark into its final non-conference game against Xavier on Sunday. The Hoosiers are off to their best start in more than 40 years, when they won their first 12 games during the 1971-72 season, the inaugural season of Indiana women’s basketball. The Hoosiers, who are one of just six teams to enter the week with 12 victories, have already surpassed their win total from a season ago and set the program record for most regular season non-conference wins.
Maintaining the Winning Ways: Every Big Ten team will head into the final week of the non-conference schedule with a winning record, making the Big Ten one of three conferences that can make such a claim. Three squads have reached the 10-win mark, while four more can reach the milestone with their next victory. Behind the 12-0 Hoosiers, Iowa has won 11 games during the non-conference season, while Minnesota carries a 10-3 mark overall. A trio of conference teams are 9-2 heading into their final non-conference contest and Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue can each move to 10-2 prior to the start of Big Ten play. Ohio State is also one victory away from its 10th win on the year as the Buckeyes are 9-6. Penn State is 8-3, followed by Michigan at 8-4, Illinois and Michigan State with matching 7-5 records and Wisconsin at 6-5.
Triple-Double: Iowa’s Samantha Logic recorded her second career triple-double against Drake last Sunday, finishing with 12 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists in the victory. She matched former Hawkeye standout Kachine Alexander for the most career triple-doubles in program history, after recording her first against Michigan in 2012. Logic becomes the second Big Ten player to record a triple-double this season, following Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B.’s effort of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks against Kansas on Nov. 20. The two are among a group of eight players in the nation to have recorded a triple-double this season.
Seasonal Specials: Some of the conference’s top individual performances of the season came in the previous week, establishing a number of Big Ten bests this season. Penn State’s Dara Taylor tied a career best with seven steals against Alcorn State and Ohio State’s Amy Scullion was a perfect 5-of-5 from long range against UT-Martin, both of which are Big Ten-bests this season. Michigan’s Cyesha Goree hauled in 18 rebounds against Southern and Iowa’s Samantha Logic had 17 boards against Drake, the second and third most, respectively, in the conference this season. Iowa’s Melissa Dixon had six steals against Drake, which is tied for the second most in the Big Ten, while Iowa’s Bethany Doolittle and Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. each had seven blocks in a game last week, tying for the second most in the conference this year.
Up in the RPI: The Big Ten will carry the top-rated RPI into the final week of its non-conference season, according to RPIRatings.com. Boosted by 10 programs that rank among the top 75 teams, the Big Ten carries a combined RPI of .5995. Five teams are among the rating’s top 30, led by No. 9 Purdue, followed by No. 19 Ohio State, No. 24 Indiana, No. 25 Iowa and No. 27 Minnesota. In addition, No. 39 Penn State, No. 48 Northwestern, No. 58 Wisconsin, No. 65 Michigan State and No. 72 Michigan each appear among the rating’s top 75.
Where We Rank: Five Big Ten teams appear in the latest national rankings, according to the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches polls, including four among the top 25. Each team climbed at least one spot in the AP poll, with Penn State jumping two spots to No. 15, followed by No. 17 Purdue, No. 18 Nebraska and No. 21 Iowa. Nebraska leads the conference contingent in the coaches poll, ranked 15th overall, followed by No. 17 Penn State, No. 19 Purdue and No. 25 Iowa. Indiana is receiving votes in the AP poll for the second straight week and received a vote for the first time this season in the USA Today rankings.
Scoring Notables: Through 144 games this season, Big Ten teams have combined to average 73.5 points per contest, more than five points above the national average of 68.4 points per contest. When compared to this time a season ago, conference squads have combined for an eight percent increase in scoring offense. Through 142 games last year, Big Ten teams were averaging 68.1 points per contest, including five that averaged more than 70 points per contest. A year ago, Penn State was the conference’s highest scoring squad at 74.3 points per game. This season, nine teams are scoring more than 70 points per contest, including seven that are averaging at least 74.3 points per game. Iowa is the Big Ten leader in scoring offense, averaging better than 82 points per contest. Indiana is second at 79.7 points per game, followed by Penn State (76.9), Illinois (76.3), Nebraska (75.9), Michigan State (74.3), Purdue (71.5) and Northwestern (70.9) as the Big Ten teams that are averaging more than 70 points per contest.
Lighting Up the Scoreboard: This season, Big Ten teams have combined to produce 45 outings of at least 80 points, compared to 32 such performances at this time a season ago. Indiana leads all conference squads with eight games of 80 or more points, including the Hoosiers’ most recent outing against Cleveland State in which they scored 107 points, the conference’s fifth 100-point game of the season. Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State have scored at least 80 points five times this season, Illinois and Ohio State each have four such outings and Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State have scored 80 or more points three times this year.
Career Milestones: Several Big Ten standouts are closing in on various career milestones. Minnesota’s Rachel Banham became the third active player to score at least 1,500 career points, now with 1,511 tallies. She currently ranks 25th nationally among the active scoring leaders and is the top-scoring junior in the country. Penn State’s Dara Taylor recorded her 400th career assist last week, while Purdue’s KK Houser is seven helpers away from become the third active player to reach the landmark. Minnesota’s Micaella Riche is three rebounds away from 500 in her career, while Penn State’s Maggie Lucas and Taylor each need three steals to reach the 200 mark.
Coaching Landmarks: One Big Ten coach recorded a landmark victory last week, while two others are closing in on milestone triumphs. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico won her 300th career game last week against Southern, becoming the seventh current Big Ten mentor to have won at least 300 games. Minnesota’s Pam Borton is seven triumphs away from reaching the landmark. Now in her 14th season at Iowa, coach Lisa Bluder enters the week needing seven victories to match the school record of 269 triumphs held by current Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer.