· Much remains to be decided as the 2017-18 Big Ten regular season enters its final week. One game separates the top four schools in the conference standings, with the Big Ten title and seeding position for next week’s Big Ten Tournament still very much at stake. The final week of the season begins Tuesday with Indiana visiting Minnesota at 8 p.m. (ET) in a game televised live on BTN Plus and also available on BTN2Go and the BTN2Go app.
· The 2018 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament is only days away, with all-session and single-session tickets on sale (details on page two of this release). 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).
· Minnesota earned its third win over a ranked opponent this season with Sunday’s 93-74 victory over No. 10/9 Maryland at Williams Arena. This marks the first time the Golden Gophers have posted three Top 25 wins in the same season since 2004-05, when they had four victories over ranked opponents.
· Indiana is in the midst of a seven-game Big Ten winning streak, its longest in conference play since a school-record eight-game Big Ten success string in 1982-83, which culminated with the Hoosiers’ first conference title during the Big Ten’s first official season of women’s basketball.
· Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder moved into sole possession of second place on the Big Ten career coaching wins list with her 177th regular-season conference victory on Sunday, an 88-61 win over Wisconsin. Bluder is 177-119 (.598) in Big Ten games during her 18 seasons in Iowa City, posting one more conference win than former Penn State coach Rene Portland (176 from 1980-2007).
· Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer will go in search of her 200th career Big Ten regular season victory on Wednesday at home against Iowa. Stringer is 199-81 (.711) in conference games as a coach at both Rutgers (which joined the Big Ten in 2014-15) and Iowa (1983-95). She is also poised to be the seventh Big Ten coach (and first women’s basketball coach) to reach the 200-win milestone in conference play, joining six men’s basketball coaches — Indiana’s Bob Knight (353 from 1972-2000), current Michigan State coach Tom Izzo (269 from 1995-present), Purdue’s Gene Keady (265 from 1981-2005) and Ward Lambert (228 from 1917; 1919-45), Illinois’ Lou Henson (214 from 1976-96) and Indiana’s Branch McCracken (210 from 1939-43; 1947-65).
· Nebraska and Rutgers need one victory to reach the 20-win mark this season. Should both schools attain that milestone in the coming weeks, it would give the Big Ten at least seven 20-win programs for the fifth consecutive season, highlighted by a record-setting nine 20-win teams last year.
· The Big Ten has two of the nation’s most improved programs this season, with Rutgers owning 13 more wins than last year and Nebraska at 12 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).
· 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.
· The Big Ten ranks No. 3 in Tuesday’s NCAA conference RPI, while seven Big Ten schools are among the top 50 in the team RPI rankings, including four in the top 25. Ohio State leads the way at No. 7, joined by No. 19 Iowa, No. 20 Maryland and No. 25 Rutgers. Minnesota is next at No. 34, followed by Purdue at No. 42 and Michigan at No. 45, with Michigan State (No. 59), Indiana (No. 60) and Nebraska (No. 62) not far off.
· The Big Ten has seven schools in the top 50 of Monday’s Sagarin ratings. The group includes No. 11 Ohio State, No. 12 Maryland, No. 27 Michigan, No. 29 Minnesota, No. 31 Iowa, No. 34 Rutgers and No. 38 Michigan State, with Purdue (No. 54), Nebraska (No. 56) and Indiana (No. 62) knocking on the door.
· Seven Big Ten schools are ranked or receiving votes in the latest Associated Press or USA Today polls, led by No. 13 (AP)/No. 13 (USA Today) Maryland. Ohio State is also ranked in both polls at No. 14/15. Michigan and Minnesota are receiving votes in both polls, while Iowa and Nebraska earned votes in the AP poll, and Purdue did likewise in the coaches’ poll. Ten Big Ten schools have been ranked or receiving votes for at least one week this year.
· Eleven of the 14 Big Ten programs rank among the top 50 in the nation in attendance, including six in the top 25, according to Tuesday’s NCAA statistics report. Michigan State leads the way at No. 8 nationally (6,294 fans per game), joined by No. 9 Purdue (6,009), No. 11 Ohio State (5,654), No. 13 Iowa (5,354), No. 14 Maryland (5,201) and No. 21 Nebraska (4,289). The other Big Ten schools currently among the top 50 in the nation in attendance are Wisconsin (28th - 3,703), Indiana (34th - 3,235), Minnesota (36th - 3,106), Michigan (40th - 2,998) and Penn State (41st - 2,983).
· According to Tuesday’s NCAA statistics report, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson leads the nation in scoring (24.9 ppg.). In fact, three of the country’s top current five individual scorers come from Big Ten schools — Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell is second (24.6 ppg.), and Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty is fifth (23.7 ppg.).
· Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell holds the NCAA Division I record by making a three-pointer in 84 consecutive games (and counting), and she set the NCAA all-division record for career three-pointers made (472). Mitchell is fourth on the NCAA Division I career scoring list with a Big Ten-record 3,242 points.
· Four of the nation’s top 10 active NCAA Division I scoring leaders are Big Ten students — Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell (1st - 3,242; also fourth in NCAA D-I history), Michigan’s Katelynn Flaherty (2nd - 2,683), Indiana’s Tyra Buss (5th - 2,156) and Rutgers’ Tyler Scaife (6th - 2,154), with Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner just outside the top 10 in 11th (2,072).
· 14 Big Ten students (from 10 schools) have scored 30 points in a game this year, including six who have done it more than once The Big Ten’s 30-point scorers this year include: Illinois’ Alex Wittinger, Indiana’s Tyra Buss (twice), 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.
· 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 and subsequently achieve success in those roles.
· 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. Smith, who was also named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and recipient of the NCAA postgraduate scholarship, as well as a three-time all-Big Ten pick and the No. 6 scorer in conference history. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 will be enshrined June 9 in Knoxville, Tenn.
· 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.