Big Ten women's basketball power rankings

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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1. Penn State — There hasn’t been much teams have been able to do against the Nittany Lions during Big Ten play this season, and Maggie Lucas and Company enter the tournament as favorites for the title after sharing the regular-season title with Michigan State.

2. Nebraska — Nebraska may have placed third in the Big Ten, but I think it’s poised to make a deep run in both the conference and NCAA Tournaments, thanks mostly in part to Jordan Hooper and the team’s defense. The Huskers can completely shut down opposing players, and Hooper’s double-double averages will lead the team.

3. Michigan State — When the Michigan State offense is clicking on all cylinders, it’s almost unstoppable. But a sometimes weak defense or one off-night on the offensive side of the floor could doom the Spartans to an early out of the postseason.

4. Iowa — Iowa has had a very interesting season: 23 wins, which is tied for the most in a regular season for an Iowa team coached by Lisa Bluder, with all of its primary scorers coming out of the starting lineup. The Hawkeyes were one of the highest scoring teams in the conference, and they have won 11 of their last 14 Big Ten games after starting conference play 0-2. They’re bringing strong momentum with them into tournament play.

5. Purdue — A last-second miss by Iowa’s Ally Disterhoft gave Purdue a victory over Iowa that changed the course of the season for both teams. The Boilermakers came out on the right side seeding wise, but they will probably have to face the Hawkeyes in the second round of the tournament. With revenge for a close loss on their mind and momentum, the Hawkeyes could cut the returning champion’s repeat bid short.

6. Minnesota — The Gophers have strung together a relatively successful season thanks to the scoring presence of Rachel Banham and the defensive presence of Amanda Zahui B. The Gophers are capable of playing solid basketball, and they could have an upset or two go their way to forge a successful tournament.

7. Michigan — The Wolverines improved on their campaign from last season but never truly achieved anything spectacular during conference play, tying with Minnesota with 8 wins and losses.

8. Indiana — Although they’re a 10 seed for the conference tournament, the Hoosiers showed, particularly in the nonconference slate of games, that they’re a team capable of playing successful basketball. If that team shows up, the Hoosiers could make a run. If the one that only won five conference games does, it will be a short business trip to Indianapolis.

9. Ohio State — The Buckeyes had a relatively successful campaign for first-year coach Kevin McGuff, and they have become a potent team shooting from beyond the arc as conference play has advanced. A run in the conference tourney wouldn’t totally come out of left field.

10. Northwestern — The Wildcats, who tied for eighth in the conference standings with Ohio State and Indiana, won five games in conference play. They are another team that will try to fire on every cylinder to knock off a higher ranked team or two before meeting fate against one of the conference’s top-tier teams.

11. Wisconsin — The Badgers haven’t had the greatest of seasons, but when everyone enters the conference tournament on equal footing, who knows what could happen? They’ve got nothing left to lose, so why not give any team anything they’ve got?

12. Illinois — It doesn’t seem like there’s much hope here for the Illini, especially since they’ve drawn the Hawkeyes — who routed them by 25 points Sunday — but they do say that the third time is the charm. The Illini forced the Hawkeyes to grind out a sluggish win in their first meeting on Feb. 13. An upset wouldn’t help Illinois get into the NCAA Tournament, but it could change Iowa’s seeding in the Big Dance.

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