Of the top seven teams in the conference, the race to the Big Ten title seems like anyone’s game. Since our last rankings, Nebraska and Ohio State demonstrated the highs and lows that this year will bring. There’s still plenty of season to play, and that means that we’ll continue to see some major upsets week to week. With that said, this is how the teams stacked up this week.
1. No. 7 Maryland (11-1, 7-0 B1G)
Last Week: 2
Maryland blew by Minnesota easily, as Diamond Miller scored 23 to lead the Terps to a 17-point victory. Although their final margin of victory was only nine against Wisconsin, Maryland was again dominant as ever. Their game against Iowa was postponed, as the Hawkeyes didn’t want to travel due to inauguration concerns.
2. No. 11 Michigan (10-1, 5-1 B1G)
Last Week: 1
Michigan handily took down a mediocre Wisconsin team before having their game against Michigan State postponed due to COVID issues within MSU’s program. Star transfer Leigha Brown also missed time due to COVID but will likely be back soon. Clearly, this Michigan team needs her more than we thought, as Naz Hillmon’s historic game against Ohio State, and it wasn’t enough to take down the Buckeyes. The junior scored 50 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, but Michigan still lost to Ohio State by four. Akeinreh Johnson was Hillmon’s only help. The guard had 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting, but the rest of the Wolverine team combined for 13 points, shooting 4-of-27 on the day. Michigan has some problems offensively, but those will sort themselves out when Brown returns. But without their star, Michigan is a close second to Maryland.
3. No. 17 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1 B1G)
Last Week: 5
Ohio State won an exhilarating game in Iowa City, downing Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes in overtime. Madison Greene scored 20, and it looked like things were cooking for the Buckeyes until they lost to Nebraska on the road three days later. Nebraska is a good team, but Ohio State shot a measly 28% from the floor and ended the game with a total of six assists. These offensive issues vanished in a hurry, as OSU put on a clinic in their win over Michigan. Jacy Sheldon scored 20, and the rest of the Buckeye’s starting lineup put up double figures. They got out-assisted, outrebounded and allowed Naz Hillmon to make history against them but managed to pull out the win by shutting down everyone other than Hillmon and Johnson. Ohio State’s post defense needs some work, but their strong offense will carry them to a strong finish this year.
4. No. 16 Indiana (8-3, 6-1 B1G)
Last Week: 3
Indiana clobbered Purdue on the road, holding the Boilermakers to three points in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Indiana’s next two games were postponed due to COVID issues in the Rutgers and Michigan State programs. Ali Patberg has really struggled from the field, and the loss of Jaelynn Penn hurts, but she should be back in a week or two. In the meantime, Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes have been carrying a lot of weight for this team and will need to continue to do so against Northwestern, as the Hoosiers play their first game in a week in a half in Evanston on Sunday.
5. No. 21 Northwestern (6-2, 4-2 B1G)
Last Week: 4
Northwestern had a big game against Rutgers postponed, meaning Wildcat fans will have to wait to see how the Blizzard defense contains Arella Guirantes. Northwestern defended the Lady Lions well in their win over Penn State, forcing 27 turnovers and holding Penn State to 37% from the field. NU didn’t look much better on the other side of the ball, turning the ball over 22 times, eight more than their previous season average, and hitting only 19% of their shots from deep. Northwestern beat Illinois (as it should) in an easy fashion, but the resurgence of Lindsey Pulliam was significant. After a quiet first half, Pulliam scored 24 in the second to finish with 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting. Northwestern will need her to stay hot as they look for a signature win this Sunday against Indiana.
6. Michigan State (8-2, 4-1 B1G)
Last Week: 6
The Spartans have not played a game since our last rankings due to a COVID outbreak within the program. Michigan State is up to four postponements on the year and hopes to take the floor this Sunday in Madison.
7. Iowa (9-3, 5-3 B1G)
Last Week: 8
The Ohio State game showed what happens when Iowa doesn’t hit their shots from deep. For a team that usually makes eight threes a game, hitting 7-of-22 attempts in five periods is not going to get the job done. Caitlin Clark played phenomenally, but Iowa’s forwards struggled mightily, as Czinano and Cook combined for just 14 points, losing to an Ohio State team that was without elite big Dorka Juhasz. The Hawkeyes then righted the ship against Purdue, hitting 44% of their threes, before postponing their game against Maryland, wanting to avoid any potential situations that could arise at the inauguration.
8. Nebraska (7-5, 5-4 B1G)
Last Week: 7
Following their big win over Ohio State, everything pointed to the Huskers having a chance at making the tournament. They played Michigan close and had quality wins over Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State. Then, they went and laid an egg, losing to Minnesota at home. Sam Haiby scored 25 and Ashley Scoggin put in 16 of her own, but the rest of the Nebraska offense was absent for much of the game. In combination with their lack of depth, the injury to Isabelle Bourne and a porous defense, Nebraska lost what should have been the first of a series of four easy games against Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Penn State. It’s not out of the question, but it will be hard for the Huskers to make the Big Dance with this loss.
9. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3 B1G)
Last Week: 9
Rutgers has not played since our last rankings and has had its games scheduled for this week postponed. The Scarlet Knights are up to nine postponements and hope to next take the court Thursday in College Park.
10. Purdue (6-6, 3-5 B1G)
Last Week: 10
Purdue is just getting over the worst of their schedule, having faced Maryland, Indiana and Iowa in an eight-day span. The Boilermakers lost to Indiana in an ugly fashion but played Iowa relatively close, shooting 42% from beyond the arc to hang in with the Hawkeyes. Their defense is a major concern, as they have held just one of their Big Ten opponents to under 70 points. Then, they beat Wisconsin by just one at home, after holding the Badgers to just eight first-quarter points.
11. Penn State (4-6, 1-5 B1G)
Last Week: 11
Penn State’s loss against Northwestern is an L in the record but was a win in a lot of ways. For one, their young clearly executed a gameplan. They knew how to guard Northwestern, and executed a 2-1-2 zone effectively to force 22 turnovers. Secondly, they fought while down, which was most of the game. Especially in the second half, the Lady Lions kept playing and fighting to make up ground. Finally, they have a ton of young talent. As players like Maddie Burke, Makenna Marisa and Tova Sabel gain experience, this team will become dangerous for years to come.
12. Minnesota (3-7, 2-6 B1G)
Last Week: 12
The Gophers beat Maryland by three points in the second and fourth quarters but were outscored by a combined 20 points in the first and third. Jasmine Powell had a great game against the Terps with 22 points and followed it up by adding 15 against Nebraska. The Gophers saw four starters score in double figures and got a much-needed win on the road in Lincoln over a good Nebraska team.
13. Wisconsin (3-9, 0-9 B1G)
Last Week: 13
Wisconsin only lost to Maryland by nine, outscoring the Terps by three in the second quarter. UMD played a down game for their standards and was in control the whole way, but it was still an impressive effort by the Badgers. They played Purdue close but couldn’t get their first Big Ten win in what was a great opportunity. Sydney Hilliard is going to be a star, and the team starts three sophomores, so Wisconsin can be a legitimate Big Ten competitor a few years down the line.
14. Illinois (2-7, 0-6 B1G)
Last Week: 14
It’s just not Illinois’ year...