Indiana, Ohio State and Co. are eager to mix it up with Iowa in the Big Ten women’s race

Indiana coach Teri Moren embarked on her pursuit of Big Ten championships a decade ago.

During that time, Maryland, the conference newcomer, set the standard by winning three consecutive regular-season titles, three consecutive Big Ten tournament crowns, and maintaining impressive winning streaks against league opponents. However, by the fourth season, the rest of the league caught up to the Terrapins.

Now, a new challenge arises as Moren and other conference coaches aim to prevent sharp-shooting Caitlin Clark and the third-ranked Iowa team from dominating the competition.

The defending league champion, Indiana Hoosiers, refuse to give up their chance at victory against the team they almost swept last season.

“I still have great confidence in our team,” Moren stated. “Based on what I’ve witnessed during practice, I believe we have a shot at a national championship.”

It’s no wonder they maintain such belief in their ability to win titles.

While Indiana lost guard Grace Berger, who was one of their top six scorers last season, they still have preseason All-American Mackenzie Holmes. The team only lost four games by a total of 12 points, with Clark’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Iowa being the only thing that prevented a series sweep.

However, ninth-ranked Indiana is not the only threat to Iowa’s first outright conference crown in five years. The seventh-ranked Ohio State team, with guards Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Thierry, along with 6-foot forward Cotie McMahon, last season’s Big Ten freshman of the year, also poses a strong challenge after their deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

“Reaching the Elite Eight was a significant step for us. We hadn’t achieved that in 30 years,” said coach Kevin McGuff. “We have great aspirations, even though it’s difficult because there are so many talented teams and programs in women’s basketball. But that’s what we’re aiming for.”

One should not discount the 14th-ranked Maryland Terrapins either. While they may not dominate conference play as they once did, they remain a formidable team. Maryland relies on the skills of 6-2 guard Shyanne Sellers, who was an all-conference and all-defensive team selection in her first season as a starter, to fill the gaps left by first-round WNBA draft picks Diamond Miller and Abby Myers.

“I have high expectations for junior Shyanne Sellers. She understands the responsibility she has to shoulder this year,” said Terrapins coach Brenda Frese. “She has made significant progress and is more than capable of stepping up.”

Indiana, Illinois, and Maryland all used their home-court advantage to defeat Iowa last season, even with Monika Czinano on the Hawkeyes’ side. With Czinano graduated, any Big Ten team has the potential to replicate those victories, making the title race more competitive than expected.


Maryland’s initial success in Big Ten play prompted conference schools to prioritize women’s basketball, propelling the league forward. Clark’s presence has had a similar impact, resulting in increased attendance and sellout games becoming more common throughout the league. Recently, a charity game held at Iowa’s football stadium drew a record attendance of 55,646, and coach Lisa Bluder hopes to recreate similar scenes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season.


While the top four teams in the conference are clear, No. 23 Illinois could be a dark horse contender. This is the first time since 1999 that they have been included in The Associated Press preseason Top 25. Second-year coach Shauna Green can rely on four returning double-digit scorers – seniors Genesis Bryand, Makira Cook, and Kendall Bostic, along with junior Adalia McKenzie – from last season’s surprise team.

“We made some progress last year, although we still have a long way to go. It’s great to have our five starting players back. We’ve also added depth this year, which we lacked last season,” said Green.


This season, Minnesota and Michigan State have new coaches. Lindsay Whalen, former star of the Golden Gophers, and Suzy Merchant, coach of the Spartans, resigned in March. Dawn Plitzuweit left West Virginia after just one season to assume the head coaching role at Minnesota. Robin Fralick was hired by Michigan State from nearby Bowling Green.


Many teams are benefiting from key players acquired through the transfer portal. The top newcomers in the conference to watch this season include guard Celeste Taylor, who transferred from Duke to Ohio State, forward Jakia Brown-Taylor, who transferred from North Carolina State to Maryland, and center Camille Hobby, who is now at Illinois after playing with the Wolfpack.


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