If you look around the landscape of conference standings in NCAA women’s basketball, the Big Ten sticks out. Of the power five conferences, it holds the closest race with five teams within a game of each other as they enter the final week of the regular season. With just a handful of games remaining, it is anything but settled.
B1G Women’s Basketball Standings
|Team||Conference Record||Games Back|
|Team||Conference Record||Games Back|
|No. 9 Michigan||12-3||--|
|No. 5 Indiana||11-3||0.5|
|No. 18 Ohio State||12-4||0.5|
|No. 13 Maryland||12-4||0.5|
|No. 22 Iowa||11-4||1|
There’s a lot of congestion at the top of the standings; with just a week left, all five of the conference’s ranked teams still have the chance to lift the B1G championship trophy.
Here are the games that will go into deciding it.
Monday February 21 - 8 p.m. ET – No. 5 Indiana at No. 22 Iowa
The Indiana Hoosiers have stumbled as of late, winning only five of their last eight. For most teams, that would be a good run, but it has put the Hoosiers in a place of having to fight to win a title that at one point many thought was in the bag.
What makes this game particularly interesting is that these two teams just met on Saturday, with the Iowa Hawkeyes beating Indiana to give the Hoosiers their first conference loss at home this season.
Star Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes didn’t have a big impact in the 96-91 defeat, scoring just eight points and grabbing only two rebounds. Holmes is still returning to form following a knee injury that kept her out eight games until Thursday’s win over Northwestern.
Iowa is the wild card for a lot of scenarios impacting the standings. If Iowa beats Indiana again, it moves the Buckeyes into second place.
Thursday, February 24 – 6 p.m. ET – Michigan State at No. 9 Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines are currently in the driver’s seat. Win their final two games, and the conference is theirs for the taking. However, the road ahead of them is deceptively difficult. Up first are the Michigan State Spartans. MSU is 14-11 overall and 8-6 in conference, but their marquee victory of the year was Feb. 10 against these same Wolverines.
Sparty has a larger hill to climb this time around, having to travel to Ann Arbor, but it’s not a guaranteed victory for the Wolverines. Michigan started the year as a side that looked like they were ready to go deep in the NCAA Tournament, after losing only two games until that fateful trip to East Lansing. That loss to their in-state rival was their first of two straight defeats, with Northwestern narrowly defeating Michigan 71-69.
Friday, February 25 – 8 p.m. ET – No. 5 Indiana at No. 13 Maryland
The importance of this game hinges on Indiana’s result against Iowa and if the Spartans can get a second upset over their rivals. If Indiana wins and the Wolverines lose, then the Maryland Terrapins turn into the spoilers.
Maryland had a chance to fight for the title, but lost 71-59 in a Sunday trip to Ann Arbor. Even though this is their last game of the season, the Terps are still playing to get a double-bye in the B1G Tournament, given to the top four teams in the conference.
If Maryland loses to Indiana, and Iowa shocks Indiana for a second straight game, the Terrapins drop to fifth.
Sunday, February 27 – 4 p.m. ET – No. 9 Michigan at No. 22 Iowa
Once this game is over, the B1G conference title will be decided. It’s going to be tough for Iowa. This game comes to the Hawkeyes after two straight games against Indiana and a Wednesday trip to Rutgers; ending the season against a top-10 team is always tough, but especially as the capper to such a challenging week.
A lot of things have to happen for this game to decide the title for either side. Iowa has to beat Indiana and Rutgers, along with the Buckeyes dropping either of their final two games.
If the Spartans beat the Wolverines, and all games fall in Iowa’s favor, the winner of this game will be crowned championships... that’s a big if though.
The Buckeyes Road
Ohio State only has two games left, compared to the Hawkeye’s three. Looking at the remaining games for the Buckeyes, it seems more likely that Ohio State wins out than the Hawkeyes. On Thursday, Ohio State welcomes the Penn State Nittany Lions (10-15, 4-11) and on Sunday travel to Michigan State (14-11, 8-6).
Overall, the league is Michigan’s to win. If the Wolverines win out, it not only gives Michigan the title, but it shows that the team can withstand pressure heading into the B1G and NCAA Tournaments.
A slip up by Michigan, some help from Iowa, and a sweep of their last two games gives Ohio State the title.
A lot of things have to break the Buckeyes’ way, but there’s one thing that is for certain: If Ohio State wins their last two games, they get two rounds of tournament basketball off, joining the B1G Tournament in the quarterfinals.