Big Ten Women’s Basketball Power Rankings: Tournament Preview
By Ari Levin
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Seriously, what could be better than a week of back-to-back-to-back-to-back Big Ten women’s basketball games? Yes, it’s time for the 2019 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament!
First off, join the WNUR Sports Big Ten Women’s Basketball Bracket Challenge! If you’re reading this before Thursday, please go ahead and fill that out.
If you’re new here, I’ll do the best I can to catch you up. You can look through some previous weeks of power rankings, where we’ve given for each team, a player to watch, x-factor, key stat, next year’s trend, best game, and bold prediction update.
I’ll be heading down to Indianapolis this week! You can catch me on WNUR Sports to listen in to the Northwestern games and follow me for Twitter updates on everyone @LevinAri (But, if you want to tune me out for Lisa and Christy, I 100 percent understand.) Let me know if you’ll be there, too!
If you’re looking for the normal weekly rankings and game recaps, you can find those way down below. Before that, we’ve got way too many words of preview for this week, because, again, it’s the best week of the year.
Before we get into that, here’s the bracket:
2018 Big Ten Tournament Recap
The excitement started early last year; Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife hit a game-winner to beat Purdue, and Northwestern nearly came back from a 22-1 first quarter margin against Iowa. But Indiana and Michigan State stole the show with a 4OT thriller featuring 220 points, buzzer beaters, overturned buzzer beaters, plenty of clutch moments, and 38 points from Amanda Cahill which was just enough for the Hoosiers.
Carlie Wagner led the Gophers to the quarterfinal win over Iowa despite *48* points by Megan Gustafson. I guess she needed 50, since they lost by one. All four double-bye top seeds made it to the semifinals.
Minnesota’s run couldn’t last as they ran into NCAA’s No. 2 scorer in history, Kelsey Mitchell, and Ohio State’s high-powered offense. On the other side of the bracket, Maryland easily took down Nebraska and rolled into the final having never lost a Big Ten tournament game.
So, it was No. 1 Ohio State vs No. 2 Maryland, and it was the high seed that jumped out to a huge second quarter and a double-digit lead. Maryland fought back to within two points, but Mitchell and Stephanie Mavunga were just too much down the stretch, and Ohio State got the win 79-69.
Overall, top seeds were 11-2 last year, and the only two losses were No. 9 over No. 8 and No. 13 over No. 12. Pretty boring. But that’s not typical, and I’d be surprised if the same happens this year.
NCAA Tournament Hopes: Where They Stand
The Hosts: Maryland, Iowa
In the women’s tournament, the top four seeds host the first two rounds. Iowa and Maryland will both have that opportunity. If either one wins the Big Ten tournament, especially if they beat the other one, they have a chance to be a No. 2 seed, but No. 3 or No. 4 is more likely.
Locks: Rutgers, Michigan State
Both teams struggled at points recently, but overall have done enough to be in the tournament. Neither will be a high seed, likely a No. 8 seed with a tough but exciting potential Round 2 matchup.
Work Left to Do: Michigan
After being egregiously left out of the field a couple years back, Michigan won’t be comfortable. They’ve likely done enough to secure a spot, though they missed some early-season opportunities. Another quality win in the quarterfinals would help, and a win in the semifinals should make them a lock.
Depends on the Committee’s Mood: Minnesota, Indiana
These two had great non-conference records but struggled in the Big Ten. Minnesota is more interesting because almost all their losses came in a three-week span. Minnesota has a loss to Illinois, and Indiana to Grambling State. Can the committee look past those blemishes and accept a strong top-to-bottom Big Ten? It feels unlikely based on what we’ve seen the past few years.
WNIT Bound: Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Nebraska (maybe)
Nebraska needs to win two games in the Big Ten tournament (making the semifinals) to reach .500 and postseason eligibility. If they make it, all four will be in the WNIT, where they’re very strong threats.
Staying Home: Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois
Barring a miracle this week, these teams’ seasons will end early.
Three Players to Watch
New to Big Ten women’s basketball? Here’s three of the best players to keep an eye on.
Megan Gustafson, Iowa, Senior, Forward
Gustafson is, simply put, the best post scorer I’ve ever seen. She’s not going to knock down any threes (although she’s been extending to the midrange a couple times recently) but once she has the ball in the paint, you may as well just add two points to the scoreboard. Seriously, she shoots 71 percent this year. The way she knows exactly where to go to the glass, and her touch in hitting the shot is unreal. Fouling doesn’t help either, because she’s a 79 percent free-throw shooter. And contact doesn’t seem to make her more likely to miss the layup, anyway.
Kaila Charles, Maryland, Junior, Wing
Charles is the best player on the best team. It’s hard to believe she’s still just a junior; she was the best player on the team last year, too. She does it all on offense and defense. Just last week she singlehandedly led her team to a comeback win over Minnesota. The team is built around her and look where it’s got them.
Kenisha Bell, Minnesota, Redshirt Senior, Point Guard
Bell is the fastest player in the Big Ten and has a habit of causing havoc on both ends of the floor. She’s near the top in the country in free-throw attempts, which says a lot about her fearlessness to go to the basket and take contact. She’s not the best shooter, but one of her teammates is, and she has no problem finding Destiny Pitts. On defense, she manages to be everywhere, using her quickness and long arms to poke away passes when pressing.
Three Under-the-Rader Players to Watch
These players won’t win tournament MVP, and may only be around for one game, but are some of my personal favorites to watch.
Carmen Grande, Ohio State, Graduate, Point Guard
Grande is certainly one of the most fun players to watch. And not just because she only shoots 30.5 percent and is somehow worse on threes (29 percent) than threes (33 percent). The Ball State transfer tries to make the most of every possession. Every pass she throws is at full speed. That leads to a lot of assists (4.9 per game) and a lot of turnovers (3.1 per game).
Nicea Eliely, Nebraska, Junior, Guard
Eliely is one of my favorite players to watch in the conference. She doesn’t light up the stat sheet (she had a season-high 18 points against Maryland a few weeks back) but always finds a way to be near the action and make things happen, especially on defense. She was coming off the bench for some of the season but proved her way into the starting lineup.
Jaida Travascio-Green, Penn State, Junior, Guard
Travascio-Green missed the first half of the season with an injury, and it took her a while to warm up. She’s stepped up a lot the last couple weeks with the team’s leading scorer, Teniya Page, out. Page is back, though, and Travascio-Green will go back to a smaller role as a three-point specialist. What makes Travascio-Green fun is that she’s a 6-foot-2-inch guard. She’ll slide into a forward role when desperate, but more often is happy to act as a pure shooting guard. Three-fourths of her shots this year have been threes, though she shoots just 31 percent this year, and some of her best games have been recently.
Dark Horse Pick to Win it All
Minnesota. The Gophers had as rough a stretch as any team, losing seven of eight at one point in January. Outside of that month-long stretch, however, Minnesota is 19-2 this year, with one of those losses being on a buzzer-beater at Maryland. They have the talent to beat anyone in the conference. The trouble could be depth; Minnesota plays just six or seven in the rotation and could get worn out having to play four games in four days.
Northwestern, you would think, is set up well for this kind of tournament. They’ve made runs before (three years ago, they went from No. 12 seed to semifinals) and have the depth to stay fresh for an extended time. The bracket shakes out very poorly, however. They must beat Michigan State in the first round, one of the toughest teams in the conference, though they beat them earlier this year, and Michigan State is just 8-8 since that game. If they get past the Spartans, top-seeded Maryland awaits, who beat Northwestern by 15 points. Northwestern would need to play perfectly to keep that game close and sniff the semifinals. Jordan Hamilton missed the team’s last three games after an injury suffered against Purdue, and Sydney Wood left early in the last game. If they’re both out, Northwestern is in trouble. On the other hand, Northwestern has nothing to lose!
No. 12 Penn State vs No. 13 Wisconsin
As mentioned, Page looks to be back for Penn State. Without Page, Penn State hasn’t done anything on offense, but she’ll be back to give a boost. Either way, though, Penn State has struggled with their bigs all season. Wisconsin has the size to take advantage, even with the smaller Marsha Howard. Penn State took both games in the regular season by six and seven points. Wisconsin hit just three three-pointers in both games. They took a combined 57 free throws in the two games and shot 65 percent from the line. They’ve been slowly improving in that category while trying to prevent Hack-a-Badger. Winner: Wisconsin
No. 11 Purdue vs No. 14 Illinois
Illinois has improved steadily from last year. Alex Wittinger continues to play well, and Brandi Beasley has been much better on both ends of the floor. Last year, they were winless in the Big Ten and weren’t close to ever winning a game. This year, they had two wins. The one over Minnesota looks fluky now. Purdue has some bad losses this year and comes in cold, but they’ll put this one away. Winner: Purdue
No. 8 Northwestern vs No. 9 Michigan State
Northwestern took this regular season matchup by shooting over 40 percent from the floor and ending the game on an 8-1 run through the last two minutes. The Spartans shot well in their own right in that contest but have cooled off since. I don’t have the exact trends yet, but I’ll have them by Thursday for WNUR. It’ll be huge if Jordan Hamilton is able to return to close out on shooters, which is how Michigan State thrives on offense. If not, it could be a long game for the Wildcat defense. But Michigan State’s shooting has gotten a lot worse these past few weeks, for whatever reason. As they say, live by the three, die by the three. Winner: Northwestern
No. 5 Ohio State vs No. 13 Wisconsin
Ohio State took both matchups this year, the first by two points and the second by 11. Ohio State comes in as winners of four of their last five, with an excellent late-season run to finish 10-8 in the conference. Janai Crooms is improving rapidly, with five straight double-digit scoring outputs, and 11 in her last 15 games, after not getting more than seven points in her first 11 games. Wisconsin doesn’t have the guards to match up with Ohio State, or the size to stop the six-foot-five-inch Dorka Juhasz. Winner: Ohio State
No. 7 Minnesota vs No. 10 Indiana
Minnesota comes in losers of two of their last three but also winners of seven of their last nine, so you can spin that both ways. Same for Indiana, who won two of their last three but lost five of their last seven. So, the short-term trend favors Indiana, the medium-term trend suggests Minnesota, but the long-term trend would say Indiana. Minnesota took the only regular-season contest, 65-61, back in early February. Both teams would have liked a better shooting night. The problem for Indiana might be that their best player, point guard Ali Patberg, gets overpowered by Minnesota’s Bell. This should be a fun matchup, but I think Pitts and Bell will be too much for Indiana. Winner: Minnesota
No. 6 Nebraska vs No. 11 Purdue
This will be a fun one to watch. Nebraska’s Kate Cain and Purdue’s Ae’Rianna Harris are by the numbers the two best shot blockers in the conference. The point guard battle between sharpshooters Hannah Whitish and Karissa McLaughlin will be great, too. Both teams struggled to hit their potential after bringing back a lot of starters from last year. Nebraska brings a lot off the bench and could wear out Purdue, who lacks depth. This one could go either way, for sure. Nebraska won both the regular season matchups, the first one by 20 when Whitish exploded for 28 points and 12 assists. They say it’s tough to beat a team three times. But Nebraska’s tough, too. Winner: Nebraska
No. 1 Maryland vs No. 8 Northwestern
Maryland is perhaps the worst possible matchup for Northwestern. Freshman Shakira Austin is a dominant center. Charles is maybe the conference’s best two-way player, and she plays the same position as Northwestern’s best scorer. Maryland shoots threes as well as anyone, and Northwestern struggles against that. It’ll be up to Abi Scheid, then, to have a career game to keep this close. Winner: Maryland
No. 4 Michigan vs No. 5 Ohio State
How about a rivalry battle? Michigan took the first one on a last-minute comeback after trailing by 12 in the fourth quarter. Amy Dilk had 10 assists, a season high, while Hallie Thome scored just six. Dilk’s struggled since an injury a few weeks back but gets the two extra days to rest. Hopefully Ohio State didn’t expend too much in beating Wisconsin. They’ll need to get hot to get the win. If all goes well, though, Michigan should be able to quench their rival. Winner: Michigan
No. 2 Iowa vs No. 7 Minnesota
This will be a tight battle. Iowa won by 18 right in the middle of Minnesota’s slow stretch. The Gophers led by eight at halftime in that game. They’ll certainly be looking for revenge. Bell scored 22 in that game, and she’ll look for a similar performance. The difference was Tania Davis’ 21 points, and Iowa shot 63 percent to Minnesota’s 37 percent. Last year’s quarterfinal between these teams was a thriller. Minnesota comes in hot, now. But there’s just no stopping Gustafson. Winner: Iowa
No. 3 Rutgers vs No. 6 Nebraska
Rutgers finished the season on a three-game win streak, but that masks some turmoil within the program. Two key players were dismissed from the team last month, and coach C. Vivian Stringer is taking off the rest of the season. The swarming defense remains alive, but the question, as it has been all year, is if the offense can match. When Nebraska lost the first matchup between these teams, they had just 22 points but 16 turnovers from their starters. This game could be ugly, but Nebraska’s shooters have seemed to find their stride, and there’s not much Rutgers can do about that no matter what defense they play. Winner: Nebraska
No. 1 Maryland vs No. 4 Michigan
Maryland won the first matchup by 14 but led by just one entering the fourth quarter. All five Maryland starters hit double figures. The post battle between Austin and Michigan’s Thome and Big Ten Freshman of the Year candidate Naz Hillmon (another top player to watch) will be a good one. The potential shootout between Nicole Munger and Maryland’s other star freshman Taylor Mikesell will entertain those that love the deep ball. But does Michigan have a player that can stop Charles? Winner: Maryland
No. 2 Iowa vs No. 6 Nebraska
Expect a shootout here; both teams like to push the tempo and prefer offense to defense. Iowa seemingly has the advantage at every position, but Nebraska has the much better bench, and that will be important as we get deep into the tournament. Nebraska came very close at Iowa, within two in the final minute. Iowa won by 16 in Lincoln. Gustafson had 57 points and 37 rebounds between the two games. Nebraska will need to win in transition and shoot the lights out to have a chance. That’s a big ask for a young team. Winner: Iowa
No. 1 Maryland vs No. 2 Iowa
This is as good a matchup as you could get. Iowa ran away at the end last month for an 86-73 home win with 31 points from Gustafson and double digits from three other starters. This is a totally different ballgame, though, with both teams playing their third straight day on a neutral site with a conference championship at stake. Both teams shot below their season average in that meeting, which could mean even more points in this game. Iowa’s only played a back-to-back once this year, and Maryland hasn’t at all, so it will be tough for both teams to adjust. I have more faith in Brenda Frese’s ability to keep her team conditioned, and they have a better bench. It’s unoriginal, but there’s a reason Maryland has only once lost in this tournament since joining the Big Ten. Winner: Maryland
So, here’s my bracket:
Think you can do better? Try for yourself!
Alright, I think that just about covers it. Now, the teams! For each team, we’re giving a bit more detail on what they need to do in this tournament, and what that could get them.
No. 8 Maryland Terrapins • 26-3 (15-3) • Last week: 1
VS Illinois: 71-62 Win. Maryland had a weirdly long time putting this game away. They never led by more than 10 until the fourth quarter and were within six in the last few minutes. That’s all despite an 8-17 three-point outing. Mikesell led the way with 20 points. Blair Watson also hit four three-pointers. This as a little nerve-wracking for Terps fans but is a find end to the season. Maryland rolls into this week winners of 11 of their last 12 and with just three losses all year.
For No. 2 Seed: Win Big Ten Tournament
Maryland’s currently ranked eighth in the AP poll, but in the first top-16 reveal they were ranked 11th, and that was before losing at Iowa. Some upsets may move them up some, and if they roll through this week, it’ll be hard to justify having them on the three-line.
No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes • 23-6 (14-4) • Last week: 2
VS Northwestern: 74-50 Win. This is, arguably, as complete a performance Iowa has had all year. The key to this game was Hannah Stewart, who, on senior night, scored 12 points on 6-8 shooting with six assists. Overall, Iowa had 25 assists on their 30 made baskets. And the star, of course, was Gustafson. She had 24 of her 34 points in the second half on 9-10 shooting. In the second half, Iowa shot 68 percent.
For No. 2 Seed: Win Big Ten Tournament
Iowa ranked ahead of Maryland on the first Top-16 reveal, but since then they lost to Indiana (and beat Maryland.) If they win out, and get a second defeat of Maryland, they have a strong case for a second seed.
Michigan Wolverines • 20-10 (11-7) • Last week: 4
VS Wisconsin: 59-49 Win. Michigan, in an ugly game, secured a double bye. Thome led with just 14 points. Hillmon was just 1-9 for two points. They forced 26 turnovers! It’s been quite the turnaround for Michigan, who started 3-6 in the Big Ten but finished winning eight of their last nine. That’s despite Munger cooling off significantly and can probably be largely attributed to Hillmon.
For the NCAA: Two Wins, One Upset
See above. Michigan may be able to afford a loss to Ohio State at this point, but an upset of Maryland in the quarterfinal will secure a bid.
Minnesota Golden Gophers • 20-9 (9-9) • Last week: 3
AT Rutgers: 60-54 Loss. Minnesota went just six deep, getting just 15 bench minutes, and that really cost them. Three players played 40 minutes, and at the end they just ran out of gas and couldn’t get a bucket when they needed. Pitts played well, scoring 24 points with six 3-pointers, but the rest of the team never heated up.
VS Michigan State: 82-63 Win. Minnesota got a big, dominant win. Pitts had 26 points, Bell had 23 with eight rebounds. They were 30-32 on free throws. Taiye Bello didn’t start? Are they going to try that again? This was a great game for Minnesota, going in hot to the Big Ten tournament.
For the NCAA: Win the Big Ten Tournament
Minnesota has just one too many losses to think about an at-large bid, and maybe things would be different with slightly better luck against Rutgers or Maryland. But here they are, and make no mistake, they are a big threat to go far. If they can get past Gustafson, look out.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights • 21-8 (13-5) • Last week: 6
Ciani Cryor was dismissed from the team last week for violating a team policy.
VS Minnesota: 60-54 Win. Just when they needed it, Rutgers looks back on track. They forced 20 turnovers and held Minnesota to just 54 points. Arella Guirantes scored 25 points. Rutgers was just 2-15 from deep. A 14-4 run taking up much of the fourth quarter gave them a lead as they shut down Minnesota’s defense at the end.
AT Ohio State: 66-56 Win. Well, make it three straight for Rutgers. In a tough matchup with the Buckeyes, they came out on top. Rutgers trailed by 16 points in the first quarter but came back strong. Hey, look at freshman Zippy Broughton showing out for 19 points, the first time in her career she hit multiple three-pointers. That’s a nice spark for Rutgers going forward.
NCAA: Locked In
If Rutgers makes a run this week, they’ll improve their seed but not enough to host. They can probably get up to a 6-seed, which would help a lot if they want to try to reach the Sweet 16.
Michigan State Spartans • 19-10 (9-9) • Last week: 5
VS Penn State: 57-48 Win. I’m not so sure Michigan State deserved this win. They had 17 turnovers in the game, several at inopportune times. Luckily, they led by 20 early in the fourth quarter, so they overcame scoring just four points in the last nine minutes. Nia Clouden led with 14 points. Overall, they did just enough in this game, especially in the first three quarters, to avoid a bad loss. They only attempted seven 3-pointers and have really struggled in that category the last few weeks.
AT Minnesota: 82-63 Loss. This did not go the way MSU wanted, falling behind early and never coming close. Taryn McCutcheon was 2-10 from the floor. The Spartans have hit less than 30 percent of their 3-pointers in each of their last six games.
NCAA: Locked In
It’s the same as Rutgers; they can improve their seed but that’s about it. The biggest difference: they’ve already beaten a potential 1-seed.
Northwestern Wildcats • 16-13 (9-9) • Last week: 7
VS Indiana: 69-49 Win. This was a really important for Northwestern, as they were in danger of slipping to a double-digit seed and into that play-in round. Instead, they rolled from start to finish. Lindsey Pulliam had one of her best games of the season, knocking down nine of 18 shots for 24 points. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had 11 points, 11 rebounds and six steals. And the defense shut down Indiana to the tune of 31 percent shooting.
AT Iowa: 74-50 Loss. The final score isn’t an accurate picture of this game. Northwestern trailed by just five points at halftime and were still within seven halfway through the third quarter. But Gustafson became just too much in the second half. They forced 11 turnovers in the first half, and did a great job on defense, but it was just five in the second half. The lid was locked shut on the rim for the Wildcats, who were 1-14 from deep. Iowa shot 61 percent in the game, and better than 50 percent in every quarter, never letting up. If you take out Gustafson and Stewart, who had a great game in her own right, it’s a much more respectable 42 percent, though, which says some about this game for Northwestern. But on Iowa’s best day, the Wildcats have no chance, and when the shots aren’t falling, a 24-point loss results. Still, a five-win improvement from last year is nothing to scoff at.
For the NCAA: Win the Big Ten Tournament
Don’t let the ‘Cats get hot! As mentioned, they’ve been close before. A quarterfinal win over Maryland does put them in position, and they’d love nothing more than a rematch with Iowa with a tournament berth on the line. It’s very unlikely, of course. If either of their shooting guards return, Northwestern will make noise in the WNIT.
Ohio State Buckeyes • 14-13 (10-8) • Last week: 8
AT Wisconsin: 61-50 Win. An easy win for the Buckeyes with Grande leading with 17 points and five assists. Only seven people entered the contest for Ohio State, but that’s all they needed.
VS Rutgers: 66-56 Loss. This snapped a four-game win streak in ugly fashion. Thirty turnovers for the Buckeyes, and 50 combined between the two teams. Crooms had 12 points but 11 turnovers. Grande has seven to two assists. That’s more turnovers than rebounds, and nearly twice as many as made shots.
After at one point being 4-8 overall, the Buckeyes pulled off a great feat in achieving tournament eligibility, even if they lose on Thursday. The WNIT will be a fun experience for this team and give their freshmen a taste of what is to come.
Nebraska Cornhuskers • 14-15 (9-9) • Last week: 10
AT Penn State: 79-74 Win. Penn State fought hard to make this a close game, but Nebraska had answers down the stretch. Nebraska had a whopping 43 bench points, including Sam Haiby’s team-high 16 that came with a 10-10 free-throw performance. Ashtyn Veerbeek had ten rebounds and eight points off the bench. Nebraska led by 14 in the third quarter but by just two in the last two minutes.
For WNIT Eligibility: Two Wins
To reach postseason eligibility, Nebraska needs to beat the winner of Illinois-Purdue and then Rutgers. If they get those two wins, and reach the semifinals, they probably have enough for an at-large bid.
Indiana Hoosiers • 19-11 (8-10) • Last week: 9
VS Northwestern: 49-69 Loss. Indiana needed to keep their momentum to sneak into the tournament picture, and they failed to do so. With 17 turnovers and over 40 missed shots, Indiana didn’t have a chance. Ali Patberg was 5-16 and nobody else was much better.
VS Purdue: 73-51 Win. Yep, Indiana recovered just fine from a 20-point home loss. They dominated from start to finish, at one point leading by 33 points. Patberg led with 18 points. They won the rebounding battle 46-30, though the number of missed shots by Purdue had something to do with that. Nobody really lit up the scoreboard, it was a team effort to avoid the first round.
For NCAA Tournament: One Quality Win
And for this purpose, I think Minnesota counts as a quality win. I’ve been against Indiana all year long. Hoosier fans, if you’re reading, I am sorry. They keep proving me right and wrong in the same week. Early-season wins over teams like UCLA, Butler and South Dakota look better and better, which really helps the Hoosiers. I think the committee will see it as enough.
Purdue Boilermakers • 17-14 (8-10) • Last week: 11
AT Indiana: 73-51 Loss. This was simply a mess. Nothing worth mentioning beyond a 2-17 3-point mark. Purdue started Big Ten play 6-2 and looked poised for a strong finish. Instead, they lost eight of their last 10 games. One of those wins came against Illinois and the other was gift-wrapped by McLaughlin and still came by just three points.
What looked like it would be a tournament season has slipped away. Honestly, I’m not even sure the WNIT is a given for them, though a win over top-20 Miami is probably enough.
Penn State Nittany Lions • 12-17 (5-13) • Last week: 12
AT Michigan State: 57-48 Loss. Michigan State really tried to give this game away. They had eight turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. But without Page, Penn State couldn’t do anything on offense to answer. They were 2-17 from behind the arc. Travascio-Green and Amari Carter were both 2-11 from the floor.
VS Nebraska: 79-74 Loss. Penn State played a lot better. Page came back after missing a few games and scored 22 points off the bench. That let everyone else settle in, which is why they scored 26 more points than in their previous game. But Nebraska shot well, too, and Penn State couldn’t defend them.
For the Postseason: Win the Big Ten Tournament
There’s no other way for anything to happen for Penn State. Five games, five days.
Wisconsin Badgers • 13-17 (4-14) • Last week: 13
VS Ohio State: 61-50 Loss. Howard led with 15 points. They were 2-12 on 3-point attempts. But they hit 86 percent of their free throws, so that’s a success?
AT Michigan: 59-49 Loss. I skipped this game to go see Asia Durr in person. Doesn’t look like I missed much, with 46 combined turnovers. Howard came off the bench, I guess? Weird.
Goal: Get Two More Wins
Wisconsin has a winnable game against Penn State to start off. I’d love to see them put up a fight against Ohio State, too.
Illinois Fighting Illini • 10-19 (2-16) • Last week: 14
AT Maryland: 71-62 Loss. Illinois kept it close. Alex Wittinger played a great game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Brandi Beasley struggled with 4-16 shooting and a better day may have made this even closer.
Goal: Get One More Win
Illinois has a chance to add a third conference win against Purdue. If they pick it up, they probably won’t go any further, but it’s a stark improvement from last season.