Preseason Big Ten women’s basketball power rankings

By Jacob Brown

Last year’s Big Ten women’s basketball season finished with two teams hoisting the trophy, the sixth seed in the championship game and a cancelled NCAA Tournament. The conference is now gearing up for a planned start date of Nov. 25, and if football is any indication, all games will likely be played in-conference.

Last year, Maryland seemed leaps ahead of the rest of the Big Ten, with Northwestern, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa trying to break into the upper tier. With that said, a lot has happened over the long offseason, and the conference could see a major shake up. This is how I rank the Big Ten teams heading into the 2020-2021 season:

1. Maryland

2019 Record: 28-4

2019 Big Ten Record: 16-2

2019 Big Ten Standing: T1

Key Losses: Stephanie Jones, Kaila Charles, Blair Watson

Key Additions: Angel Reese (espnW No. 2)

For most teams, losing three of your top six scorers would present a thoroughly large hole in your roster (on average, Charles, Watson and Jones combined for 33.4 of Maryland’s 83 points a game). But for the Terps, it’s an opportunity. In addition to the opportunity for Taylor Mikesell, Ashley Owusu and Shakira Watson to get more shots up, talented recruit Angel Reese looks primed to step into the starting lineup right away. Maryland will have to adjust on both sides of the ball, but Brenda Frese will have her team near the top of the Big Ten, if not the country.

2. Ohio State

2019 Record: 21-12

2019 Big Ten Record: 11-7

2019 Big Ten Standing: 6

Key Losses: N/A

Key Additions: Kateri Poole (espnW No. 24)

11-7 in the Big Ten is nothing to scoff at. With a year of experience, a long offseason, and no big losses, OSU is primed to emerge this season. Dorka Juhasz is a force in the paint and beyond the arc, and the rest of the lineup isn’t too shabby either. Look out for the Buckeyes. 

3. Northwestern

2019 Record: 26-4

2019 Big Ten Record: 16-2

2019 Big Ten Standing: T1

Key Losses:  Abi Scheid, Abbie Wolf

Key Additions: Anna Morris (espnW No. 46), Jasmine McWilliams, Paige Mott

The ‘Cats look to follow up a program defining season, but will miss two of their anchors from the 2021 campaign. The front court duo of Scheid and Wolf allowed Northwestern to play an incredible inside-out offense utilizing Wolf’s post presence and Schied’s laser-like accuracy from beyond the arc. With that said, Lindsey Pulliam, Veronica Burton and Sydney Wood are all coming off of extraordinary seasons. For Wood, the questions linger on her offensive ability, while Burton will look to build on an extremely strong end of the season. As far as Pulliam goes, my biggest question is this: How much of Pulliam’s potential have Northwestern fans seen? With the NCAA voting to grant Winter athletes another year of eligibility, Pulliam’s time in Evanston is likely dependent on her performance in 2021 and her draft stock as a result. 

To accompany their Big 3, the ‘Cats will need veterans to step up. Courtney Shaw looks slotted to fill in the starting center role, and has shown the ability to be a force on both ends, although her game isn’t the most consistent. Jordan Hamilton will likely step into the lineup to fill the shooting void left by Scheid’s departure. With that said, Anna Morris and Jess Sancataldo both provide aptitude from beyond the arc. There’s a lot of question marks on the team, but also a lot to be excited for. Fans shouldn’t expect this team to be quite as good as last year’s was, but they will be a player in the top 25 all season long. 

4. Indiana

2019 Record: 24-8

2019 Big Ten Record: 13-5

2019 Big Ten Standing: 4

Key Losses: Brenna Wise

Key Additions: N/A

The good news for coach Teri Moren’s team: she returns four of her five starters, and her 1 loss averaged only 8 of the team’s 72 points per game. The bad news: the program failed to add a top 100 recruit. Nonetheless, the three recruits they did get are nothing to be scoffed at. Until seeing how they develop, I wouldn’t characterize any of the newcomers as key, which is good news for everyone else in the Big Ten.

5. Michigan

2019 Record: 21-22

2019 Big Ten Record: 10-8

2019 Big Ten Standing: 7

Key Losses: Kayla Robbins

Key Additions: Cameron Williams (espnW #30)

Losing Kayla Robbins hurts, but after knocking Northwestern out of the Big Ten Tournament, Big Blue retains Naz Hillmon, Amy Dilk, Hailey Brow and more, while replacing Robbins with Cameron Williams. They have solid post play, an arsenal of shooters, and depth across the board. Michigan could be a dark horse candidate to win the conference if a few key games break their way. 

6. Rutgers

2019 Record: 22-9

2019 Big Ten Record: 11-7

2019 Big Ten Standing: 5

Key Losses: Khadaizha Sanders, Jordan Wallace

Key Additions: Diamond Johnson (espnW No. 6), Chyna Cornwell (espnW No. 60), Sakima Walker (espnW No. 63)

The Scarlet Knights have something brewing. Leading scorers Arella Guirantes and Tekia Mack return, and are joined by an incredible recruiting class. Coached by C. Vivian Stringer, look for these players to develop well, and quickly. This year may not be the greatest for Rutgers, but they will be a force in years to come.

7. Iowa

2019 Record: 23-7

2019 Big Ten Record: 14-4

2019 Big Ten Standing: 3

Key losses: Kathleen Doyle, Mackenzie Meyer

Key Additions: Caitlin Clark (espnW No. 4), Sharon Goodman, Shateah Wetering, Lauren Jensen

Just as Big Ten opponents let out a sigh of relief that Doyle moved onto the next step, Caitlin Clark steps in to lead the Hawkeyes. The highly touted point guard will join Monika Czinano as coach Lisa Bluder looks to continue her success in the conference.

8. Purdue

2019 Record: 18-14

2019 Big Ten Record: 8-10

2019 Big Ten Standing: 9

Key Losses: Ae’Rianna Harris, Dominique Oden

Key Additions: Ra’Shaya Kyle (espnW No. 36), Madison Layden (espnW No. 55)

The Boilermakers lost a dynamic scorer and an elite defender, but added two gifted players this offseason. They could have a rough start, but as their young players find their footing, Purdue will regain its relevance in the Big Ten.

9. Nebraska

2019 Record: 17-13

2019 Big Ten Record: 7-11

2019 Big Ten Standing: 10

Key Losses: Hannah Whitish, Nicea Eliely

Key Additions: Kendall Coley (espnW No. 49), Allison Weidner (espnW No. 80)

Leigha Brown averaged 14 points a game last year off of the bench. The Huskers have a balanced attack on the offensive end, but don’t add up on paper to be an elite Big Ten team. 

10. Michigan State

2019 Record: 16-14

2019 Big Ten Record: 9-9

2019 Big Ten Standing: 8

Key Losses: Taryn McCutcheon, Nia Hollie

Key Additions: Kendall Bostic (espnW No. 65)

Michigan State has the talent and grit to keep them in games, but I don’t think it’ll win too many of them. The Spartans should sit around the middle of the Big Ten, but look for them to upset some good teams. 

11. Minnesota

2019 Record: 16-15

2019 Big Ten Record: 5-13

2019 Big Ten Standing: 11

Key Losses: Destiny Pitts (transfer), Taiye Bello

Key Additions: Katie Borowicz (espnW No. 98)

The Gophers suspended their best player, Destiny Pitts, for “unspecified conduct unbecoming of a member of the team,” AKA bad body language, against Northwestern last year. This didn’t blow over well, and Pitts left for Texas A&M. Minnesota’s 2021 season will likely go as well as its treatment of its star players.

12. Illinois

2019 Record: 11-19

2019 Big Ten Record: 2-16

2019 Big Ten Standing: 13

Key Losses: Ali Andrews, Brandi Beasley

Key Additions: Adalia McKenzie (espnW No. 53), Jayla Oden

The Illini added a solid recruiting class to a promising core of Kennedi Myles and Jada Peebles, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough. If Petra Holesinska and J-Naya Ephraim can take over games, U of I could be dangerous. However, that seems unlikely.

13. Wisconsin 

2019 Record: 12-19

2019 Big Ten Record: 3-15

2019 Big Ten Standing: 12

Key Losses: Kendra Van Leeuwen, Suzanne Gilreath

Key Additions: Halle Douglass (espnW No. 93)

They were able to grab a four-star recruit from Lake Forest, Illinois over the ‘Cats. That is probably the Badgers only win over Northwestern this season, and they most likely won’t be beating many other teams either.

14. Penn State

2019 Record: 7-23

2019 Big Ten Record: 1-17

2019 Big Ten Standing: 14

Key Losses: Siyeh Frazier – 5’9 Guard

Key Additions: Leilani Kapinus – 5’10 Guard. espnW #32

The program added a lot of young talent, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to right the ship after winning just one game in conference play last year. Expect the Nittany Lions to remain at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.