If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that everything can change in the blink of an eye. After nine months of uncertainty, the Michigan and Ohio State women’s basketball programs experienced another screwball, as both teams have had to postpone games due to positive COVID-19 tests. As good as these teams may have looked, their momentum could be in jeopardy as the virus sidelines them early into conference play.
1. No. 14 Maryland (5-1, 1-0 B1G)
Last Week: 1
The Terrapins’ game against OSU was postponed but would’ve told us a lot about this team. They crushed James Madison, but that doesn’t say much. Their win against Rutgers was impressive, but what happens when their opponent doesn’t turn the ball over 21 times? How long will Brenda Frese be able to run seven deep? Maryland has plenty of questions but plenty of talent to provide answers.
2. No. 15 Northwestern (4-0, 2-0 B1G)
Last Week: 3
The ‘Cats are off to a hot start, and despite facing some shooting challenges early this season, they have rolled through their first two Big Ten matchups and all of their nonconference opponents. Veronica Burton has carried the team, averaging 21 points and 5.5 assists per game. Wood has emerged as a threat on both sides of the court, scoring 14 points per game in addition to her dominant defense. And Lindsey Pulliam maintained her dominant play despite some below-average shooting nights. With more challenging Big Ten opponents on the horizon, it remains to be seen how the small lineup will matchup against some of the conference’s strongest post players.
3. No. 17 Michigan (5-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last Week: 4
Michigan hasn’t played a game in over two weeks now, since its demolition of Butler on December 9. After starting the season on a strong note, the Wolverines have battled a COVID-19 outbreak that caused them to postpone their matchups with Illinois and Penn State. Luckily for them, their next game isn’t until New Year’s Eve against Wisconsin, which they will hopefully be cleared to play. That’s a game Michigan will need to use to get right quickly, as they travel to Evanston only three days later.
4. No. 16 Ohio State (4-0)
Last Week: 3
The Buckeyes have now had five games canceled or postponed on the season, including matchups against Maryland and Michigan State. This will hurt them down the stretch, shortening their recovery time between games late in the season. Additionally, the Buckeyes received a self-imposed postseason ban on Tuesday in response to an NCAA sexual harassment investigation of former assistant coach Patrick Klein. It’s not the fault of the players, but this season will be a wash for the Buckeyes no matter what success they have.
5. No. 25 Michigan State (7-0, 2-0 B1G)
Last Week: 6
MSU isn’t beating great teams, but two Big Ten wins is significant for anyone. Nia Clouden is averaging 18.6 points per game, with Alyza Winston and Julia Ayrault putting up an impressive 18.5 and 11.1, respectively. The Spartans aren’t flashy, but they have talent and depth, which could be crucial in this strange COVID season.
6. No. 19 Indiana (4-2, 2-0 B1G)
Last Week: 2
The Hoosiers dominated Nebraska and thoroughly outplayed Minnesota, but they are two of the worst teams in the Big Ten. They’re still ranked No. 19 nationally, but the loss to Tennessee was an ugly one. The Vols outrebounded Indiana 51-to-38 and held them to 32% shooting from the field. Shooting 7% from deep isn’t great either, and IU has only made 26% of their shots from beyond the arc on the season. They’re still ranked highly, but Indiana could really struggle when they begin to face some of the stronger teams in the Big Ten.
7. Rutgers (5-1, 1-1 B1G)
Last Week: 7
Arella Guirantes has been rolling, averaging 23 points per game and taking home espnW National Player of the Week and the Big Ten Player of the Week honors. The Scarlet Knights have used their nonconference schedule to build chemistry and get their freshman star Diamond Johnson going, who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors herself as her team took down a number of less talented opponents despite facing a tough loss to Maryland.
8. Iowa (5-1, 1-1 B1G)
Last Week: 7
Even after shooting 3-of-15 against Western Illinois, Caitlin Clark is hitting 45% of her shots and averaging 27 points and seven rebounds per game. The freshman prodigy is going to be the backbone of this Hawkeye team. With that said, sophomore McKenna Warnock is battling injury, so Iowa will have to find a way to win games without her.
9. Purdue (5-2, 2-1 B1G)
Last Week: 8
Purdue’s last three games perfectly encapsulated what their Big Ten season will look like. The Boilermakers will likely beat the weaker teams in the conference and lose to the good ones, like their defeat to Northwestern and victories against Penn State and Nebraska. They’re unlikely to come away with many big upsets, and they likely won’t blow any easy games. But they’ll play teams close, so they get bonus points for good television.
10. Wisconsin (1-2)
Last Week: 12
The Badgers played Rutgers close and beat Valpo, a task Illinois and Purdue failed to do. They’ve been very reliant on Sydney Hillard, but she looks like a bonafide star. They’re at the bottom of the bunch for sure, but the combination of Imani Lewis and Hillard will propel UW over some of the other low-end teams in the conference.
11. Penn State (3-2, 0-1 B1G)
Last Week: 11
The Nittany Lions played a ranked Syracuse team close and led Purdue for 35 minutes. Both of these games presented the problem of closing, as PSU had leads going into the fourth quarter. Three of their starters are sophomores, so the ability to finish games will come, but it will take some time for these players to grow comfortable in that spot.
12. Nebraska (3-3, 1-2 B1G)
Last Week: 10
Isabelle Bourne and Sam Haiby are each averaging over 15 points per game, but beyond them, this Nebraska team lacks the talent to compete with many Big Ten teams. They’re not going to beat most teams, but they got by the Illini, which is something!
13. Illinois (2-2, 0-1 B1G)
Last Week: 13
U of I has had two games postponed against Michigan or Southern Illinois. Its next game will be against Indiana on December 31, three weeks after losing to Nebraska by six. This season isn’t going to be pretty for the Illini, but Jada Peebles and Kennedi Myles could help Illinois pull out some upset wins in conference play.
14. Minnesota (1-4, 0-3 B1G)
Last Week: 14
This team has talent, but not enough to beat most Big Ten teams, as they suffered three early conference losses to Michigan State, Northwestern and Indiana. They don’t have COVID, though, so things could be worse!