Caitlin Clark-led Iowa women are pick to win loaded Big Ten
(AP) -The Big Ten keeps getting tougher in women’s basketball.
Caitlin Clark, who could go down as one of the greatest college players of all time, leads a fourth-ranked Iowa team that returns all five starters for a third straight year and is the pick to win the league title.
“I think the rest of us will be chasing after that,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “The great thing about the parity in our league, proven night in, night out, is there’s no game that’s safe, right? If you’re talking at the top or the bottom, the bottom is making strides and they’re going to compete every single night.”
No. 11 Indiana filled its backcourt needs through the transfer portal and is expected to contend after finishing fifth last season. No. 14 Ohio State brings back its top three scorers from the team that shared the title with Iowa.
No. 17 Maryland lost key players but brought in five transfers who should help stave off any drop-off for a team that was a half-game out of first place. No. 22 Nebraska is ranked in the preseason for the first time since 2014 with a veteran roster led by Alexis Markowski in the post.
Now consider No. 25 Michigan, the only Big Ten team to make the Elite Eight. Though the Wolverines lost star Naz Hillmon, they return their next four top scorers and got a 2021 McDonald’s All-American out of the portal. They’re picked fifth, which is testament to the strength of the Big Ten.
Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said she wouldn’t be surprised if the conference ended its national championship drought this season. Purdue won the Big Ten’s most recent national title, in 1999. Maryland was in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it won it in 2006.
“I think our league is going to be more challenging than ever,” Barnes Arico said. “Obviously Caitlin Clark is a phenomenal basketball player, but I think from top to bottom there are tremendous, tremendous players in our league, as well as coaches.”
Rutgers’ Coquese Washington and Illinois’ Shauna Green are the only first-year head coaches.
Washington was associate head coach at Notre Dame the past two seasons. She replaces C. Vivian Stringer, the Basketball Hall of Fame member who retired in April after 27 seasons at Rutgers and 50 as a head coach.
Green coached Dayton to four NCAA Tournament appearances in six years and replaces Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member Nancy Fahey, who retired after five seasons with the Illini.
COMING AND GOING
Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs are among five Division I transfers at Maryland. Alexander was Vanderbilt’s top scorer last season, averaging 15.2 points per game, and Briggs was scoring better than 12 points per game for Florida when a shin injury ended her season in January. She averaged 19.5 points for the Gators in 2020-21.
Indiana strengthened its backcourt by bringing in Sara Scalia from Minnesota and Sydney Parrish from Oregon. Scalia was a 41% 3-point shooter and averaged 17.8 points last season.
Michigan brought in 2021 McDonald’s All-American Greta Kampschroeder from Oregon State, where she had an up-and-down freshman season.
Kamaria McDaniel landed at Michigan State, her third school after two years at Penn State and the past two at Baylor. She was the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer (19.8 ppg) in 2019-20.
Taniyah Thompson heads a list of three Division I transfers at Penn State. Thompson was the American Athletic Conference’s second-leading scorer (18.5 ppg) for East Carolina.
FRESHMEN TO WATCH
Ohio State has the conference’s highest-rated freshman in forward Cotie McMahon, who enrolled last spring. She averaged 14.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in six games while helping Team USA win the FIBA U18 Americas Championship.
Two of Minnesota’s in-state recruits were ranked in the top 50 nationally. Amanda Battle was the state’s 2022 Miss Basketball and fellow guard Mara Braun averaged better than 18 points per game over her high school career.
Nebraska’s Maggie Mendleson was the nation’s No. 2 volleyball recruit, and the middle blocker has appeared in 10 matches for one of the nation’s premier programs. A forward-center in basketball, she was No. 32 in the HoopGurlz-ESPNW basketball rankings.
EARLY BIG GAMES
Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland and Nebraska will test themselves early.
Ohio State hosts No. 5 Tennessee on Nov. 8, Maryland hosts top-ranked defending national champion South Carolina on Nov. 11, Indiana visits Tennessee on Nov. 14, Nebraska heads to Omaha to play No. 21 Creighton on Nov. 15 and Maryland goes to No. 18 Baylor on Nov. 20.
Iowa will play either Duke or No. 6 Connecticut over Thanksgiving weekend in Portland, Oregon, and host No. 10 North Carolina State on Dec. 1 and No. 8 Iowa State on Dec. 7.
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