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Big Ten showdown set in Indy


The IU women's basketball team huddles before the game against Wisconsin on Jan. 24. The Hoosiers got the seven seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play No. 10-seeded Michigan State at 6:30 on Thursday in Indianapolis.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

With the Big Ten Tournament right around the corner, the field of competition is set. Each team played 16 games within the conference and have been ranked solely on those records. IU finished as the No. 7 seed and will receive a first round bye before playing No. 10-ranked Michigan State Thursday at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. 

Before the round of play gets underway, here's what you need to know about all the teams competing. 

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes (24-6, 13-3)

The Buckeyes finished the Big Ten season atop the conference standings after a four-game win streak. They’re also ranked 14th nationally. 

They ended up averaging 85.3 points per game in conference play to lead the Big Ten in that category and are the fourth-highest scoring team in the country. 

Ohio State is led by senior guard Kelsey Mitchell who has made a name for herself as one of the Big Ten’s best players over the past four years. She finished the regular season at second in the conference in scoring at 24.4 points per game and shot over 40 percent from three-point range. 

The Buckeyes also get major contributions from senior forward Stephanie Mavunga, who averages 16.2 points and 10.6 rebounds and senior guard Linnae Harper, who averages 15.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals. 

The Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers twice this season both in Bloomington and Columbus by 15 points each time. 

#2 Maryland Terrapins (23-6, 12-4)

The Terrapins come in to the tournament as one of two nationally ranked teams at 13th. They were in the top five in the Big Ten in both team offense and team defense after averaging 81.7 points and giving up just 64.3 points per game. 

They also led the conference in offensive rebounds at 15.8 per game and are second in steals at 10.2 a game. Sophomore guard Kaila Charles leads the Terrapins in both scoring and rebounding at 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, while shooting 52 percent from the field. 

Meanwhile, senior guard Kristen Confroy is the Big Ten’s leader in three-point percentage at 45.6 percent. IU went to Maryland on Jan. 16 and lost 74-70.

#3 Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-9, 11-5)

Nebraska brings in one of the Big Ten’s top defenses that held opponents to a conference-best 37.1 percent shooting from the field. Sophomore guard Hannah Whitish led a balanced scoring attack, averaging 12.7 points and also leads the Cornhuskers in assists at five per game. 

Freshman center Kate Cain is a force down low on both ends of the floor as well. While averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, the 6-foot-5 post also tied for the Big Ten lead in blocks at 3.1 per game. 

The Hoosiers beat the Cornhuskers on senior day 83-75.

#4 Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-7, 11-5)

The Golden Gophers have proven to be one of the country’s most high octane offensive teams all season. Despite boasting the league’s worst defense after giving up 72.8 points per game, Minnesota was just behind Ohio State as the conference’s highest-scoring offense at 84.9 points a game. 

Junior guard Kenisha Bell and senior guard Carlie Wagner have both been major scoring threats for Minnesota this season, averaging 19.6 and 18.3 points respectively. Sophomore guard Gadiva Hubbard and freshman guard Destiny Pitts were also in the top 30 in the Big Ten in scoring as well. 

Pitts, who averaged 13.1 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week a program-record seven times. 

The Hoosiers beat the Gophers in Minnesota this season 82-70. 

#5 Iowa Hawkeyes (23-6, 11-5)

Iowa is the hottest Big Ten team as of right now. After defeating IU on senior day at Iowa on Saturday, the Hawkeyes capped off the regular season on a seven-game win streak. They shoot 37.1 percent from the field as a team, while also leading the conference in both assists  and blocks. 

Everything Iowa does begins and ends with the nation’s most efficient player in 6-foot-3 junior forward Megan Gustafson. Gustafson, who is a frontrunner for both Big Ten and National Player of the Year honors, leads the country in scoring at 25.3 points per game. She does so by shooting 66.3 percent from the field, which is good for third-best in the nation. She’s also fifth in the country in rebounds at 12.7 per game as well. Sophomore guard Kathleen Doyle is also tied for the conference-lead in assists at 6.6 per game. 

As mentioned earlier, IU went to Iowa Saturday and lost 75-62.

#6 Michigan Wolverines (21-8, 10-6)

After being nationally ranked for much of the first half of the season, the Wolverines had tailed off a bit as of late and find themselves as the six seed heading into the Big Ten Tournament. 

Michigan has the conference’s second best defense, giving up 62.5 points per game and the best three-point shooting offense at 40.4 percent. The duo of senior guard Katelynn Flaherty and junior center Hallie Thome are the focal point for opposing teams. Flaherty was one of the most prolific scorers in the Big Ten after averaging 23.5 points and shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range. Meanwhile, Thome averaged 16.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and shot 61.6 percent from the field. 

The Hoosiers lost to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor 84-79. 

#7 Indiana Hoosiers (16-13, 9-7)

Before losing to Iowa in their regular season finale, the Hoosiers were on a program-record eight-game winning streak. Much of that was due to the record-breaking play of senior guard Tyra Buss and senior forward Amanda Cahill. 

Buss averaged 20.8 points, 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals on the year on her way to becoming IU’s all-time leader in each category. Cahill averaged 14.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks and became just the third IU women’s player ever to record 1,000 career rebounds. 

The duo did all this while being the Big Ten leaders in minutes played at 39.6 and 37.7 per game each. Freshman guard Jaelynn Penn has come into her own as well as of late and averaged 10.1 points on the season on her way to being named a two-time Big Ten freshman of the week.

#8 Purdue Boilermakers (18-12, 9-7)

Purdue is one of the Big Ten’s top defensive teams, giving up just 62.7 points per game for third-best in the conference. They’re also third in Big Ten in blocks as a team at 5.1 per game. Sophomore forward Ae’Rianna Harris plays a big part in that after tying in the conference lead in blocks, averaging 3.1. 

She also adds averages 12.7 points and 8.8 rebounds to go along with that. The Boilermakers boast two other prominent scorers in sophomore guards Andreona Keys, 13.6, and Dominique Oden, 13.3. 

IU swept the series with the Boilermakers this season for the first time since 1985. 

#9 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (19-11, 7-9)

Rutgers does its most damage on the defensive end of the floor. Under legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer, the Scarlet Knights come into the tournament with the Big Ten’s top defense, allowing just 59.3 points per game. 

While they are one of the conference’s lower ranked offensive teams, they still wreak havoc on defense by leading the Big Ten in steals, 12.1, and being second in blocks, 5.2. 

They do still have a dangerous scoring threat in senior guard Tyler Scaife, who averaged 19.7 points on the season. 

IU defeated Rutgers in a hard-fought game in Bloomington 64-58. 

#10 Michigan State Spartans (17-12, 7-9)

After starting the season off strong, the Spartans have been in a bit of a downward spiral. Michigan State is just 3-7 in its last 10 games. 

However, one thing they have done well all season is distribute the ball. They ranked second in the Big Ten by averaging 17.7 assists as a team per game. It's led to one of the conference’s most balanced scoring attacks led by sophomore guard Taryn McCutcheon at 11 points per game and senior guard Branndais Agee averaging 10.4 points. 

IU and MSU split the season series this year, each picking up wins on the road against one another. 

#11 Penn State Nittany Lions (15-14, 6-10)

The Nittany Lions finished in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in nearly every major statistical category but they do have a few dangerous scorers on their roster. 

Junior guard Teniya Page led the way with 18.1 points per game and fellow junior guard Amari Carter was close behind at 14.4 points. Meanwhile, junior forward De’Janae Boykin led the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game. 

IU and PSU played early on in the Big Ten season on Jan. 3, and the Hoosiers lost 77-74 on the road. 

#12 Northwestern Wildcats (11-19, 4-12)

Despite their struggles this season, the Wildcats have a group of promising young players that have produced major contributions for them throughout the year. 

One of the highlights of the season has been the play of junior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who has averaged 11.5 points and finished second in the Big Ten with 11.8 rebounds per game. She’s also been a force on the defensive side of ball, finishing in the top ten in the conference in both blocks and steals.

 Freshman guard Lindsey Pulliam leads the way in scoring at 14.7 points per game and sophomore forward Abi Scheid is close behind at 12.1 per game. 

The Hoosiers knocked off the Wildcats 78-73 in Bloomington Feb. 4.

#13 Wisconsin Badgers (9-20, 2-14)

The Badgers have struggled mightily offensively this season and ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring at 60.6 points per game. However, they have been able to force opponents into just 32.6 percent shooting from three-point range. 

Senior guard Cayla McMorris and junior forward Marsha Howard carry much of the scoring load, averaging 13.4 and 12.4 points each. The two do it all for Wisconsin as they are also the team leaders in rebounds. 

IU handled the Badgers easily at home 69-55. 

#14 Illinois Fighting Illini (9-21, 0-16)

It’s been a rough go in the 2017-18 season for Illinois. After going winless in the Big Ten this season, the Illini finished near the bottom of every statistical category except for offensive rebounding and blocks in which they finished seventh in both. 

They lean heavily on junior forward Alex Wittinger, who has proven to be one of the conference’s most productive players. Wittinger led her team in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and blocks. 

Sophomore guard Brandi Beasley has also been a major contributor with 12 points and 3.5 assists per game. 

IU had no struggle beating the Illini 70-54 at home Feb. 8.

Games will kick-off with the 11-14 seeds competing on Wednesday and will finish on Sunday with the Big Ten Championships. All games will be played in Banker's Life Fieldhouse. 

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