· The Big Ten is in the midst of a busy closing stretch with conference games played on 12 of the final 15 days of the season from Feb. 11-25. The schedule continues Tuesday as No. 16/17 Ohio State travels to Illinois for an 8 p.m. (ET) contest that will be televised on BTN Plus and can also be seen live on BTN2Go and the BTN2Go app.
· The 2018 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament is just over two weeks away, with all-session and single-session tickets on sale. The 25th Big Ten Tournament will take place Feb. 28-March 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. As part of the Silver Anniversary celebration surrounding this year’s tournament, the Big Ten is looking back at some of the memorable students and moments in Big Ten Tournament history through regular features on the official Big Ten women’s basketball Twitter account, @B1GWBBall (use the hashtag #B1G25WBB to follow along).
· Credential applications for the 2018 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament are being accepted through Friday. Media members are invited to go online to office.bigten.org/media to submit their applications. For more information, contact Chris Masters in the Big Ten Communications office.
· On Tuesday, Minnesota guard/forward Destiny Pitts became the second Big Ten student this season to earn the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Week award. Pitts joined Michigan’s Hailey Brown, who received the honor on Jan. 5, while two other Big Ten students have been named USBWA National Player of the Week this season — Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (Jan. 2) and Maryland’s Kaila Charles (Jan. 29). In addition, Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell was chosen as the espnW National Player of the Week on Nov. 27.
· Former Ohio State All-America guard and 1996 Big Ten Player of the Year Katie Smith (’96) has been selected for induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, it was announced Monday. Smith was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and recipient of the NCAA postgraduate scholarship, in addition to being a three-time all-conference pick and the No. 5 scorer in conference history. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be enshrined June 9 in Knoxville, Tenn.
· With Sunday’s 70-61 win over Northwestern, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder earned her 176th career Big Ten regular season victory, moving into a tie for second on the conference career wins chart with former Penn State coach Rene Portland (176 from 1980-2007). Bluder has a 176-119 (.597) record in Big Ten play during her 18 seasons at Iowa.
· Michigan State drew 12,434 fans for Sunday’s win over in-state rival Michigan, the largest crowd to watch a Big Ten women’s basketball game this season, and the second time this year the Spartans have attracted 10,000 fans to a home game (11,950 vs. Indiana on Jan. 20).
· Eleven of the 14 Big Ten programs rank among the top 50 in the nation in attendance, including six in the top 20, according to Tuesday’s NCAA statistics report. Michigan State leads the way at No. 8 nationally (6,404 fans per game), joined by No. 9 Purdue (6,009), No. 12 Ohio State (5,468), No. 13 Maryland (5,254), No. 14 Iowa (5,201) and No. 20 Nebraska (4,289). The other Big Ten schools currently among the top 50 in the nation in attendance are Wisconsin (26th - 3,748), Indiana (35th - 3,091), Minnesota (38th - 3,037), Penn State (39th - 3,031) and Michigan (40th - 2,998).
· Indiana’s Tyra Buss is among 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to a senior basketball student who has made notable achievements in the award’s four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. The 2017-18 Senior CLASS Award recipient will be announced during this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Columbus. Iowa’s Samantha Logic is the most recent Big Ten women’s basketball student to earn the Senior CLASS Award, doing so in 2014-15.
· According to Tuesday’s NCAA statistics report, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson leads the nation in scoring (24.8 ppg.). In addition, three of the country’s top current five individual scorers come from Big Ten schools — Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell is second (24.4 ppg.), and Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty is fifth (23.6 ppg.).
· Ohio State senior guard Kelsey Mitchell became the fourth NCAA Division I student to record 3,000 points and 500 assists in her career, reaching that latter mark last Thursday during the Buckeyes’ 90-68 win over visiting Rutgers. Mitchell already holds the NCAA Division I record by making a three-pointer in 83 consecutive games (and counting), and she also owns the NCAA all-division record for career three-pointers made (463). In addition, Mitchell is fourth on the NCAA Division I career scoring list with a Big Ten-record 3,188 points.
· Four of the nation’s top 10 active NCAA Division I scoring leaders are Big Ten students — Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell (1st - 3,188; also fourth in NCAA D-I history), Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty (2nd - 2,657), Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife (6th - 2,129) and Indiana’s Tyra Buss (8th - 2,119), with Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner just outside the top 10 in 11th (2,029).
· 13 Big Ten students (from nine schools) have scored 30 points in a game this season. The Big Ten’s 30-point scorers this year include: Indiana’s Tyra Buss, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (six times), Maryland’s Kaila Charles (twice) and Eleanna Christinaki, Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty (three times), Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell (four times) and Carlie Wagner, Northwestern’s Lindsey Pulliam, Ohio State’s Stephanie Mavunga and Kelsey Mitchell (seven times), Penn State’s Teniya Page and Jaida Travascio-Green, and Purdue’s Andreona Keys.
· The Big Ten ranks No. 3 in Tuesday’s NCAA conference RPI, while six Big Ten schools are among the top 50 in the team RPI rankings, including three in the top 25. Ohio State leads the way at No. 6, joined by No. 13 Maryland and No. 21 Iowa. Rutgers is next at No. 26, followed by Michigan at No. 43 and Minnesota at No. 44, with Purdue (No. 52) and Michigan State (No. 54) not far off.
· The Big Ten has seven schools in the top 50 of Tuesday’s Sagarin ratings. The group includes No. 10 Maryland, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 25 Michigan, No. 31 Iowa, No. 33 Minnesota, No. 34 Michigan State and No. 36 Rutgers, with Nebraska (No. 54) knocking on the door.
· Six Big Ten schools are ranked or receiving votes in the latest Associated Press or USA Today polls, led by No. 10 (AP)/No. 9 (USA Today) Maryland. Ohio State is also ranked in both polls at No. 16/17, as is Michigan at No. 23/23. Nebraska is receiving votes in both polls, while Iowa and Minnesota earned votes in the AP poll. Ten Big Ten schools have been ranked or receiving votes for at least one week this year.
· The Big Ten has two of the nation’s most improved programs this season, with Rutgers owning 12 more wins than last year and Nebraska at 11 wins more than its total in 2016-17. The Big Ten record for the most improvement from one season to the next (combining the difference in wins and losses, dividing by two) is +14.5 by Iowa in 1995-96 (11-17 to 27-4).
· Five students (three players, two graduate assistants) from Big Ten schools are among this year’s class for the 16th annual “So You Want To Be A Coach” program, to be held March 28-30 at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Illinois’ Jenn Dynis (graduate assistant), Michigan’s Jillian Dunston and Danielle Williams (graduate assistant), and Nebraska’s Jasmine Cincore and Emily Wood will participate in the workshop, which is designed to, among other objectives, increase the understanding and application of skills necessary to secure coaching positions in women’s basketball and subsequently achieve success in those roles.
· The 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four will be played March 30 and April 1, right in the heart of Big Ten country in Columbus, Ohio, and co-hosted by Ohio State and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission at Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. This will mark the seventh time the Women’s Final Four is held within the Big Ten Conference footprint, with three visits to Indianapolis (2005, 2011, 2016), two others in the state of Ohio (Cincinnati-1997, Cleveland-2007) and the 1995 event in Minneapolis (the last time it was held in a city featuring a Big Ten institution).
· Next season, the Big Ten will return to an 18-game conference schedule, following approval by the Big Ten Administrators Council in October. Under the new format, schools will play five opponents twice and eight teams once (four home, four away) each season. The model will also emphasize in-state rivalries and competition between regional opponents. Big Ten women’s basketball programs played 18 regular-season conference games for the first 12 seasons of Big Ten play (1982-83 through 1993-94) and returned to that format from 2007-08 to 2009-10 and again in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
· For the fourth consecutive year, every Big Ten women’s basketball conference game, including 112 regular-season and 13 tournament games, will be produced and distributed by BTN, BTN Plus or an ESPN network.
· Big Ten programs produced 61 Academic All-Big Ten selections in 2016-17, the 10th consecutive season at least 45 women’s basketball students received the award. That list includes returning Academic All-Americans Amanda Cahill of Indiana and Carlie Wagner of Minnesota, plus Academic All-District honoree Kristen Confroy of Maryland.