NCAAW Big Ten: Ohio State Buckeyes, Indiana achieving excellence

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As 2022 comes to a close, the Big Ten conference remains the most competitive and has produced the most results. So far ten schools are ranked in the Top 55 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, which will eventually help determine tournament seeding. In addition, five schools are currently ranked in the Top 25: No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Indiana, No. 12 Iowa, No. 15 Maryland and No. 19 Michigan.

Furthermore, the Big Ten is ranked first among all Division I conferences in scoring (77 points per game), field-goal percentage (45.4), free throw percentage (72.8), 3-point percentage (34.6) and assists (16.8 per game), while ranking second in steals (9.3 per game). Also, in a conference that prioritizes top-notch up-tempo offense, the Big Ten has produced eight teams in the Top 40 in terms of overall scoring.

Going into this season, all eyes were focused on Iowa, the defending regular-season and tournament champions. While still in good standing with an 8-3 record (2-0 in the conference), the Hawkeyes are no longer the top team. Both Ohio State and Indiana are 10-0 and 2-0 in the conference thus far.

With their 67-58 victory over Penn State on Dec. 8, the Hoosiers equaled their best start under Head Coach Teri Moren, going back to the 2018-19 season when they also started 10-0. They are ranked fourth in the nation in field goal percentage at 51.1, sixth in assists per game at 19.5, and 10th in overall scoring at 84 points per game. Against Penn State, they shot 52.9 percent from the field, making it the seventh game in which they shot 50 percent or better. In that game, Mackenzie Holmes notched her third double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Ohio State is continuing to play stellar defense against a backdrop of offensive prowess. The Buckeyes are leading the nation in turnover margin at 13.5. They are ranked third when it comes to steals per game (15.8) and turnovers forced per game (27.3). The Buckeyes also know how to share the ball as they are currently ranked fourth in the nation in assists per game at 20.6. They have managed to tie their highest national ranking in program history (No. 3) and earlier in the season captured a critical victory against then-No. 5 Tennessee by 12 points on Nov. 8. The fabulous pair of Rebeka Mikulášiková and guard Taylor Mikesell are the teams’ leading scorers with Mikesell at 18. 9 points per game and Mikulášiková at 17.2.

But the obvious rule of thumb is to never count out the defending champions. The Hawkeyes still possess one of the most dynamic offenses in all of women’s college basketball. They are currently ranked eighth in scoring offense at 85.6 points per game, 10th in field goal percentage at 48.6, and 14th in assists per game at 18.6. Their junior guard Caitlin Clark is ranked second in the nation with 27.7 points per game and sixth in assists per game at 7.2, continuing to cement her status as a national phenom. Her partner in crime, fifth-year center Monika Czinano, is ranked 13th in field goal percentage at 64.2 and is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.4 boards per game. They are one of the best dynamic duos to watch.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder, in her 22nd season, made history in a Dec. 10 victory against Minnesota, capturing her 234th Big Ten regular season win, passing the legendary C. Vivian Stranger for the most regular season conference wins in Big Ten history. She achieved that feat before a devoted fan base that has enabled the Hawkeyes to be ranked fourth in attendance at 9,053 fans per game.

It is important to remember that it is still very early and anything can happen. But as of now, the Big Ten is very much up for grabs. The Buckeyes and Hoosiers are playing incredibly well and have exceeded expectations. The Hawkeyes are by no means willing to give up their reign as title-holders and will do what it takes to keep what they feel is rightfully theirs. All of this makes the Big Ten the must-see conference to watch in women’s college basketball.

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