Big Ten Women’s Teams Aim for NCAA Tournament Breakthrough with Impressive Momentum
The Big Ten Conference is hoping for a breakthrough in the women’s NCAA Tournament, with Iowa’s standout player Caitlin Clark expressing optimism about the conference’s chances. Despite its big budgets and high-profile programs, the Power 5 conference has only advanced one women’s team to the national semifinals since 2005, with Maryland achieving the feat in 2015. The league has only one NCAA champion, Purdue, which won in 1999. Clark believes the Big Ten can place two teams in the Final Four this year, given the strength of teams such as Maryland, Ohio State, and Indiana. However, the conference may need to work on building confidence to achieve this goal.
The All-America first team in women’s basketball has been announced, with two Big Ten players earning recognition. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark received the honor alongside Mackenzie Holmes from Indiana, who led her team to the Big Ten regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in its region. Diamond Miller of Maryland, the No. 2 seed in its region, was named to the second team. In addition, Indiana’s Grace Berger, Michigan’s Leigha Brown, Makira Cook of Illinois, and Iowa’s Monika Czinano received honorable mentions.
The Big Ten is also demonstrating its strength in other areas, such as depth, coaching, and support. This season, both Indiana and Purdue sold out their games for the first time at Assembly Hall, while their game against Iowa in Iowa City was also an early sellout. With the NCAA tournament underway, coaches are recognizing the importance of conference play in preparing their teams for the tournament.
Maryland coach Brenda Freese noted that, after competing against each other all season, teams in the Big Ten are now rooting for each other to succeed in the tournament. She also emphasized the importance of continuing to build on what the teams learned during conference play in order to advance in the tournament.