By Michael McCurdy and James Kay
There’s Maryland, and then there’s everyone else in the Big Ten. The Terrapins have dominated the conference in their two-plus years. All-American Kelsey Mitchell and the Ohio State Buckeyes could outscore them in a tournament game, however.
Maryland is the nation’s third best team and leads the Big Ten in point differential (plus-27.7). The Terrapins also have out-rebounded their opponents by 16.2 per game. If they keep up that pace, they will be close to unbeatable.
2. Ohio State
Standout junior guard Kelsey Mitchell has led the Buckeyes to a 7-1 Big Ten start, averaging 21.6 points per game. Eight Big Ten games in, the Buckeyes have traveled outside of Columbus for four of them. Coming away with three victories, the Buckeyes are embracing the road-warrior tag.
The Wolverines have had success with their consistent looks from beyond the arc. They average 19 3-point attempts per game, making 42 percent. The Wolverines have four players averaging 13 or more points per game, showing they have numerous weapons on the offensive end.
After an 11-2 nonconference start, the Wildcats hoped to take their momentum into an rigorous early Big Ten schedule. Even with star guard Nia Coffey, who averages 19 points per game, the Wildcats were unable to hang with Big Ten’s best, Maryland and Ohio State.
When looking at Purdue’s statistics, an observer notes it doesn’t overwhelm its opponents in any category. Ranking eighth in the conference in field-goal percentage, Purdue has put the bulk of its effort into defense, where it sits first in the conference in points allowed.
6. Michigan State
Following a loss on the road to evenly matched Purdue, the Spartans regrouped and came back firing on all cylinders, defeating Nebraska by 20 points and No. 11 Ohio State by 19. Unable to build on that success, Michigan State slipped back into the middle tier, losing on the road to Rutgers.
The Hawkeyes are still trying to find their identity on offense, rotating three different freshmen into the starting unit. Sophomore Megan Gustafson has developed into a star; she ranks second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage and tenth in points per game.
The Hoosiers are better than their 3-3 Big Ten record. Good news for the Hoosiers: Their next two games are at home.
9. Penn State
Despite a 13-6 record, Penn State has struggled to gain any momentum in conference (3-4). They are No. 12 in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage allowed (.413) and No. 11 in 3-point percentage allowed.
With a brutal opening slate of conference games, the Gophers were unable to come away with any victories, putting themselves in an 0-3 hole.
Rutgers has held its own on defense, No. 3 in the Big Ten in points allowed. Unfortunately, it has no weapons on offense. The Scarlet Knights have only two players averaging 10 points a game.
Eighteen games in and the Illini have only played one ranked team; a great reason that they sit at 3-4 in conference play.
If the saying, “defense wins championships” rings true, then Nebraska will have a couple more weeks to study for finals when the NCAA Tournament rolls around. It has allowed a horrendous 74 points a game while surrendering seven 3-pointers a game.
The Badgers sit at 5-14 overall with an 0-6 conference record, accomplishing all of this without having yet to play Maryland.