The Big Ten has been headlined this season by a few of the best teams in all the nation in Iowa, Indiana and Maryland. As the Women’s March Madness tournament looks to start later this week, there are seven Big Ten teams who are looking to win a national championship. Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois and Purdue are all looking to make a deep run, but the opening round awaits.
Here are the matchups for each Big Ten team in the first round.
No. 2-seed Maryland (25-6) vs. No. 15-seed Holy Cross (24-8)
The Terrapins ended their regular season on a hot streak, winning the last six games of the regular season. They have earned the No. 2 seed on their side of the bracket, underneath Dawn Staley’s South Carolina squad. Maryland has found their star in Diamond Miller, who averages 19.7 points a game. Abby Meyers is another great player for the Terps, especially in shooting around the perimeter. Maryland just has to continue to play their fast-paced, high intensity game and they will continue to succeed. That being said, Holy Cross is an exciting team who is coming off of its Patriot League championship victory. The Crusaders play a more slow-and-steady game, which could prove to be beneficial as the game goes on, but if they are too slow, they won’t be able to catch up.
No. 1-seed Indiana (27-3) vs No. 16-seed winner of Monmouth/Tennessee Tech
Indiana has established itself as one of the best teams in college basketball this season, while earning the honor of being regular season Big Ten champions. Mackenzie Holmes is an All-American for the Hoosiers, averaging 22.3 points per game and shooting for 68.8% around the floor, the best in the conference. She is also defensively sound, averaging 1.9 blocks per game. Indiana doesn’t need to change anything to their gameplan, just continuing to feed Holmes the ball and upping the pressure while on defense will hopefully bring them far. Most think that Iowa will be the team that carries the Big Ten to the title game, but Indiana might be the team to actually do it.
No. 6-seed Michigan (22-9) vs No. 11-seed UNLV (31-2)
Michigan has one of the toughest games to start the tournament. UNLV was better than everyone in the Mountain West Conference, and has everything in place to pull off this upset. The Lady Rebels have won their last 22 games and Desi-Rae Young and Essence Booker are their best players on offense. Michigan though, is a bit of an under-the-radar team. For the Wolverines to win, they need to rely on Leigha Brown and Laila Phelia to play exactly how they have down the stretch — rebounding well and shooting even better.
No. 3-seed Ohio St (25-7) vs No. 14-seed James Madison (26-7)
Ohio State was one of the best teams in the Big Ten as of late, making it all the way to the conference finals before losing to Iowa. The Buckeyes looked really good before losing Madison Greene to injury earlier in the season. Still, OSU can play. Freshman Cotie McMahon has been the difference maker for Ohio State as she’s stepped into a bigger role since Greene got injured. Averaging 14.7 PPG, she was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. If Ohio State continues to play how it did in the tournament (minus the final), they have the potential to make a deep run. James Madison is good, but they won’t be able to beat the Buckeyes if they stay hot.
No. 2-seed Iowa (26-6) vs No. 15-seed Southeast Louisiana (21-9)
Iowa is one of the best teams in college basketball right now. After a disappointing exit last season at the hands of Creighton, the Hawkeyes are one of the best teams in the nation rallying behind superstar Caitlin Clark. Iowa also has one of the easiest paths in the whole bracket to the Elite Eight, where they may run into top-seeded Stanford. After that, it’s tough to say where Iowa will end up, but they have the potential to make the championship as long as they play at the best of their ability.
First Four In:
In addition to all of the Big Ten teams already in the bracket, there are two teams that will have the chance to play in; Illinois and Purdue.
No. 11-seed Illinois (22-9) vs No. 11-seed Mississippi State (20-10)
It is head coach Shauna Green’s first year at the helm of the Fighting Illini this season, and they are one win away from making the bracket. If they win, they will play No. 6-seed Creighton. Mississippi State though, is a very sound defensive team, and plays in an arguably better conference with teams like South Carolina and LSU. Illinois is a gritty, hardworking team who can win as long as it starts hot and stays hot. This could be the closest of all Big Ten matchups in the tournament so far.
No. 11-seed Purdue (19-10) vs No. 11-seed St. John’s (22-8)
St. John’s had one of the biggest upsets earlier this season when they beat UConn back in February. Still, if they want to get in, they have to get past a promising Purdue team first. It is the Boilermakers’ first time in the tournament since 2017, and will look to both Janae Terry, one of the best players in the country, and Abbey Ellis, who is incredible from the free throw line, to carry them on through to playing No. 6-seed North Carolina.