By Ari Levin
It’s finally here. Regular season basketball. We got our first look at each team against quality opponents, so now we get to see what’s changed for each team and where they stack up.
To this point, it doesn’t appear as if any of our initial expectations were too far off. It’s always hard to tell who has improved and who has not from last year, but the clues seem to be quickly coming in.
1. Maryland Terrapins • (2-0) • Last week: 1
Early on, it certainly seems that Maryland, yet again, is the team to beat in the Big Ten. After starting off with a dominant 93-36 win over Coppin State,they beat Dayton, a tournament team last year, by double digits on Sunday. Six-foot-five-inch Freshman Shakira Austin had 12 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks off the bench in the opener. Next Sunday they play at South Carolina on ESPN in what’s sure to be a thriller.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes • (1-0) • Last week: 2
We haven’t seen much of Iowa yet this season. They started the year on Friday with a 90-77 victory over Oral Roberts in which Megan Gustafson recorded 23 points, 17 rebounds, and perhaps most impressively, six assists. The most encouraging aspect of the Hawkeye’s season is that Tania Davis is healthy and starting; she went 3-4 from behind the arc in the game.
3. Minnesota Golden Gophers • (1-0) • Last week: 4
The Gophers have also played only one game so far, a 70-47 victory over New Hampshire. Senior Annalese Lamke made her first start since her Freshman year and led both teams with 21 points. This team is just getting started under new head coach Lindsey Whalen.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers • (1-1) • Last week: 3
Nebraska has gotten out to a slightly sluggish beginning to their season. They started on Wednesday with a tough home loss to last year’s MVC Champion Drake Bulldogs that they could have won. Against USC Upstate they won by 23 at home but it was closer for some time, and Hannah Whitish did not score in the latter game. Nebraska gets a chance to rest up with just one game between November 11th and 23rd.
5. Michigan Wolverines • (1-0) • Last week: 5
Without Katelynn Flaherty, Hallie Thome must be the primary offensive option this year. In the Wolverines’ 88-40 win over Mount Saint Mary’s, she was just that, scoring 25 points to lead both teams. The plan may be for Thome to average close to that number this season.
6. Northwestern Wildcats • (2-0) • Last week: 7
Nobody has had a better start to the season results-wise than the Wildcats. On the road against a really good Green Bay team, the Wildcats closed out the game on a 10-0 run, including a huge three-pointer by first year Sydney Wood. Then, in the new Welsh-Ryan Arena opener, Northwestern beat No. 21 Duke by 26 points. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah is averaging over 15 rebounds per game, and it would not be surprising to see her finish with close to that number. Northwestern started their season with two of their three hardest non-conference opponents (DePaul is the other) and won them both.
7. Purdue Boilermakers • (2-0) • Last week: 6
Purdue started the season fantastically with a 42-point win on the road against a good Ball State team. The defense for Purdue was huge, as the Boilermakers held their opponents to 38 points. They also had more offensive rebounds (24) than Ball State had defensive rebounds (20). Purdue followed that by squeaking by a solid Harvard team at home, hitting a free throw to win with under a second left. Purdue might play ugly a lot and win games in the 50s or even 40s, but hey, wins are wins.
8. Michigan State Spartans • (2-0) • Last week: 8
Michigan State has taken care of business so far, winning 99-69 against Bowling Green and 75-53 against ETSU. The Spartans are shooting nearly 45 percent on the three-ball so far this year and averaging over 10 made per game. If they can keep anywhere near those numbers, this will be a dangerous team.
9. Indiana Hoosiers • (2-0) • Last week: 9
Indiana just barely avoided a bad loss to Milwaukee in which they trailed with under 90 seconds left. Then, on Sunday, they gave a dominant defensive performance at Oakland, winning 59-32 and holding the Golden Grizzlies to under 20 percent shooting. Only two Oakland players had scored with five minutes remaining. Indiana doesn’t face a top-100 RPI team from last year until December, so they have a chance to get things straightened out.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes • (1-2) • Last week: 10
It will be interesting to see whether Ohio State or Indiana is the better team this season after losing a franchise-defining player. The Buckeyes have so far had perhaps the toughest schedule in the nation. They started the season with a 47-71 loss to No. 22 South Florida, and on Sunday lost 84-53 to No. 2 UConn, a respectable margin against the Huskies. Sandwiched between was a 55-41 win over Detroit Mercy, but when you only score 55 points against one of the worst teams in Division I, you know something is off. The Buckeyes were never held below 60 points last year. In other words, through three games, their season-high in points is less than their season-low from last year. To make matters worse, graduate transfer Ashanti Abshaw is out for the year suffering a torn ACL in practice.
11. Penn State Nittany Lions • (1-1) • Last week: 11
This Nittany Lions team is maybe the most unpredictable group in the conference. They had to outscore Providence 23-9 in the fourth quarter to win on a pair of last-second free throws. Then, on Sunday, they took a lead in the third quarter against #24 Cal before falling off late. There’s still no sign of Jaida Travascio-Green, who would be a welcome player right now given Penn State’s 28-percent three-point shooting.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights • (2-0) • Last week: 12
This area of the rankings will be very fluid over the next few weeks. Rutgers may have a case to advance upwards early on but have not faced a quality opponent. They broke records with 73 team rebounds in their 96-52 win over Saint Francis, then beat Stony Brook 61-47. Zippy Broughton and Sierra Calhoun both missed the second game with ankle injuries, and while Rutgers still shot 6-11 from deep, that may not be repeatable without their best shooters if they continue to miss time. But if everyone can return healthy, Rutgers can make a splash in non-conference play the way they did last year.
13. Wisconsin Badgers • (1-0) • Last week: 13
Wisconsin won 76-41 over Winthrop, who went 3-27 last year and 2-16 in the Big South. Not much to take away from this one.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini • (1-0) • Last week: 14
Despite going winless in the Big Ten last year, Illinois received votes in the coaches poll. They also beat Alabama A&M 88-60 and had five scorers in double digits.