Dec. 31, 2013
Tipoff: All 12 conference teams open the Big Ten schedule this week, beginning with three conference clashes on Thursday night. Indiana will carry an undefeated 13-0 mark into the first week of conference play, while every other Big Ten team boasts a winning record following non-conference play. Big Ten squads are averaging nearly 74 points per game this season, more than five points higher than the national average. Numerous conference freshmen are making immediate impacts on their respective squads, while at least 10 Big Ten standouts appear among the conference’s top 10 in two or more statistical categories. This week, eight conference contests will be nationally distributed, including four games that will televised live by BTN.
Conference Season Up Next: The 2014 Big Ten season commences Thursday night with nine conference contests scheduled this week. Three games open the conference slate on Thursday with Ohio State hosting Purdue, Nebraska welcoming Northwestern and Indiana taking on Iowa. Illinois hosts Wisconsin on Friday and Minnesota entertains Michigan State on Saturday. Michigan begins the conference season on the road against Ohio State, while Penn State opens defense of its Big Ten Championship with a road contest at Iowa on Sunday afternoon. The complete opening week schedule can be found on Page 1 of this release.
Undefeated Hoosiers: After notching its 13th win of the season with a road victory over Xavier, Indiana recorded its best start in program history. Now at 13-0 on the year, the Hoosiers completed non-conference play without a loss for the fourth time and have established the longest winning streak in program history. The Hoosiers are among a group of seven teams in the country that enter the week with an unblemished record and one of just seven teams to have won at least 13 games this season.
Winning Ways: Each Big Ten program will enter the conference season with a winning record, including seven squads that have won 10 or more games. Indiana leads the way with 13 triumphs this season, Iowa has 12 victories and Minnesota carries 11 wins into conference play. Four squads boast 10 wins entering Big Ten play as Nebraska and Purdue are 10-2, Northwestern is 10-3 and Ohio State completed non-conference play with a 10-6 record. Michigan and Penn State each have nine wins, Michigan State has eight victories and Illinois and Wisconsin ended the non-conference season with seven triumphs.
Point Taken: Big Ten teams enter the week averaging 73.8 points per game this season, more than five points higher than the national average of 68.3 points per contest. Through the non-conference season, nine Big Ten squads are averaging better than 70 points per game, including six that enter conference play scoring at least 75 points per contest. Iowa leads the way at 82.6 points per game, followed by Indiana (78.3 ppg), Nebraska (77.0), Michigan State (76.5), Penn State (76.3), Illinois (75.1), Purdue (74.6), Michigan (74.5) and Northwestern (70.8). Big Ten programs were averaging 68.6 points per contest with seven teams averaging at least 70 points per contest at the end of non-conference play last season.
Lighting Up the Scoreboard: This season, Big Ten teams have combined to produce 49 outings of at least 80 points. Of those 49 contests, conference squads have recorded six 100-point games this season, including Purdue’s 109-point outing against Central Michigan on Dec. 28. During the entire 2012-13 season, conference squads combined to produce just one 100-point effort. This season, Indiana leads all conference squads with eight games of 80 or more points, while Iowa and Michigan State have scored at least 80 points six times. Michigan has five such outings, Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State each have four 80-point games and Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue have scored 80 or more points three times.
Where We Rank: Five Big Ten teams appear in the latest Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches polls, including four squads that appear among the top 25. In the AP poll, Penn State leads all conference squads at No. 15, followed by No. 17 Purdue, No. 18 Nebraska and No. 22 Iowa, while Indiana is also receiving votes for the third straight week. In the coaches vote, Nebraska remained at No. 15, while Penn State and Purdue appeared at No. 17 and 19, respectively, while Iowa jumped two spots to No. 23 this week.
Instant Impact: Several Big Ten freshmen made immediate impacts on their respective teams during the non-conference season, ranking among the conference leaders in numerous categories. Eight conference standouts rank among the top 30 in points per game, led by Indiana’s Larryn Brooks at 18.7 points per game, which is fifth in the conference. Northwestern’s Nia Coffey ranks seventh overall, averaging 15.5 points per game, Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B. is 13th at 14.8 points, Michigan’s Siera Thompson is 18th at 13.7 points and Michigan State’s Aerial Powers is 20th at 13.5 points. Five freshmen rank among the top 20 in rebounds per game, including three in the top eight. Zahui is first in the Big Ten at 11.2 rebounds per game, followed by Coffey in third at 8.8 per night and Powers in eighth at 7.5 boards per contest. Five freshmen are among the top eight steals leaders, led by Northwestern’s Ashley Deary in second at 2.6 per game. Two of the top three shot blockers in the conference are freshmen with Zahui first at 3.5 blocks and Coffey third at 2.5 blocks per game. Up to date statistics can be found at bigten.org.
Up in the RPI: The Big Ten will carry the nation’s second-best RPI into the conference season, with 10 teams rated among the top 80 in the nation, according to RPIRatings.com. Purdue carries a top-10 rating, checking in at No. 10 to lead all conference teams. Four other Big Ten teams rate among the top 35 of the RPI, including No. 21 Iowa, No. 24 Ohio State, No. 29 Indiana and No. 31 Minnesota. Penn State checks in at No. 51, followed by No. 55 Wisconsin, No. 68 Michigan State, No. 69 Northwestern and No. 78 Michigan are among the Big Ten teams that appear among the top 80 of the latest RPI ratings.
They Can Do it All: Several Big Ten standouts appear among the conference’s statistical top 10 in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Northwestern’s Nia Coffey ranks among the top 10 in all four categories, including a third-place ranking in rebounding (8.8 rbg), steals (2.2 spg) and blocks (2.5 bpg) and an eighth-place ranking in scoring (15.5 ppg). Purdue’s KK Houser ranks among the top 10 in three categories, including scoring (10th, 15.2), steals (fourth, 2.1) and assists (fifth, 5.3). At least nine conference players appear among the top 10 in two categories. Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper ranks third in scoring (20.7 ppg) and is second in rebounding (10.8 rbg), while Wisconsin’s Michala Johnson is seventh in scoring (15.8) and seventh in rebounding (8.2). Illinois’ Amber Moore is fourth in scoring (18.8) and seventh in steals (1.9) and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas is second in scoring (21.1) and ninth in steals (1.9). Iowa’s Samantha Logic leads the Big Ten in assists per game (6.9) and is 10th in steals (1.9), Penn State’s Dara Taylor leads the conference in steals (3.0) and is sixth in assists (4.5), Northwestern’s Ashley Deary is second in both assists (6.5) and steals (2.6) per game and Michigan State’s Aerial Powers is eighth in rebounding (7.5) and fifth in steals (2.1).