Non-conference play continues for Big Ten women’s basketball programs this week, beginning Tuesday as Wisconsin welcomes Marshall to the Kohl Center for an 8 p.m. (ET) matchup that will be televised live on BTN Plus. All BTN and BTN Plus games are also available on BTN’s digital extension, BTN2Go, as well as the FOX Sports app.
The Big Ten continues to enjoy a strong composite start this year, having combined to post a .743 winning percentage (75-26) through the first month of the 2018-19 season. That mark includes seven non-conference wins against ranked opponents, with Minnesota and Purdue adding to that total on Nov. 30 with their wins over No. 12/12 Syracuse and No. 21/20 Miami, respectively.
Eight Big Ten schools are ranked or receiving votes in the current Associated Press or USA Today/WBCA polls, led by No. 7 (AP)/No. 7 (USA Today) Maryland. Minnesota and Iowa are also ranked in both polls, with the Golden Gophers at No. 14/18 and the Hawkeyes at No. 16/16. Indiana and Michigan State are receiving votes in both polls, while Northwestern and Purdue are earning votes in the AP poll and Michigan is doing likewise in the USA Today balloting.
The eight Big Ten schools in the polls ties a season high and, with the addition of Indiana and Purdue this week, 11 Big Ten programs have been ranked or receiving votes for at least one week this season.
Minnesota has risen to its highest poll rankings since the 2005-06 season. The Golden Gophers last reached a higher AP poll position on Feb. 6, 2006 (11th) and a higher USA Today/WBCA rank on Feb. 13, 2006 (16th).
Indiana owns the nation’s longest active winning streak at 13 games and has won 22 of its last 24 games, highlighted by its six-game run to the WNIT title last spring. The Hoosiers are off to a 7-0 start this year, their second-best debut in the past 18 seasons. The only time in that span Indiana opened with a better record was 2013-14 (the season before current head coach Teri Moren took over), when the Hoosiers won their first 14 games.
For the fourth consecutive week and 14th time in her career, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday, while Ohio State’s Dorka Juhász earned both the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award and the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Week honor. Gustafson is the first Big Ten women’s basketball student in conference history to earn Player of the Week accolades in each of the season’s first four weeks, while Juhász is the first Big Ten student chosen for the USBWA National Freshman of the Week award this season — last year, Michigan’s Hailey Brown (Jan. 15) and Minnesota’s Destiny Pitts (Feb. 12) received the honor.
Iowa’s Megan Gustafson needs 23 points to become the seventh Big Ten women’s basketball student to register 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career, joining an elite group that includes Illinois’ Jenna Smith (2007-10), Minnesota’s Laura Coenen (1982-85), Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper (2011-14), Northwestern’s Nia Coffey (2014-17), and Ohio State’s Jessica Davenport (2004-07) and Jantel Lavender (2008-11).
Big Ten programs factor prominently in the NCAA statistical rankings as of Tuesday. Iowa is No. 1 in the nation in assists (24.4 apg.), while Maryland is tops in rebounding margin (+18.9 rpg.). In addition, Iowa is second nationally in field goal percentage (.549), while Maryland is No. 3 in the country in rebounding (50.13 rpg.). In the individual rankings, Minnesota’s Taiye Bello leads the country in rebounding (14.9 rpg.), while Iowa’s Megan Gustafson is second in field goal percentage (.770), third in double-doubles (6) and fourth in scoring (24.9 ppg.).
Nine Big Ten programs are ranked among the top 40 in the nation in average attendance as of Monday. Purdue leads the conference contingent at No. 9 with 5,937 fans per game, with Minnesota not far behind at No. 11 (5,570), Michigan State at No. 18 (4,516), Ohio State at No. 20 (4,308) and Nebraska at No. 24 (3,688). Iowa is next at No. 27 (3,348), followed by Wisconsin at No. 29 (3,191), Maryland at No. 37 (2,900) and Indiana at No. 38 (2,897). Minnesota also drew the largest crowd in the country this season, with a school-record 14,625 fans selling out Williams Arena for the Golden Gophers’ season-opening win over New Hampshire on Nov. 9.
This year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge went right down to the final games on Nov. 29-30, with the ACC edging the Big Ten, 8-6. The Big Ten had plenty of success in the Challenge, highlighted by a pair of wins on Thursday over ranked opponents (No. 20/RV Minnesota over No. 12/12 Syracuse and Purdue over No. 21/20 Miami). In addition, the deciding margin in this year’s Challenge included five games decided by single digits (and two others by 11 points), with two being one-possession games, including the first Challenge game to go to overtime since 2016 (Illinois vs. Clemson).
Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, Michigan’s Hallie Thome and Penn State’s Teniya Page are among 30 candidates for the 2018-19 Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top senior women’s basketball student who embodies the award’s four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The candidate lists will be trimmed to 10 finalists in February with this year’s recipient announced at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa. Two students from current Big Ten schools have earned the Senior CLASS Award since its inception in 2001-02, with Iowa’s Samantha Logic the most recent honoree in 2014-15.
Big Ten women’s basketball programs produced 67 students that earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2017-18, the 11th consecutive season at least 45 women’s basketball students received the award.
The Big Ten returns to an 18-game conference schedule this year, with each school playing five opponents twice (home-and-away), while playing the other eight schools once (four at home, four on the road). 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.
Big Ten women’s basketball programs will be featured on national television at least 78 times during the 2018-19 season. BTN will televise at least 69 games and ESPN2 will carry nine contests. In addition, for the fifth consecutive year, every Big Ten women’s basketball conference game, including 126 regular-season contests and all 13 Big Ten Tournament games, will be produced and distributed by BTN, BTN Plus or an ESPN network.