Third-seeded Purdue limped through February, losing five of seven games. Meanwhile, No. 6 Illinois continues to show promise under first-year coach Matt Bollant. Illini forward Karisma Penn has scored 1,875 career points, grabbed 1,002 rebounds and made 260 blocks. She’ll have to lead Illinois past Wisconsin in today’s opening round, but the Illini took Purdue to overtime on Jan. 2 before losing 67-66.
MOST TO LOSE
The latest NCAA Tournament projections by ESPN list Iowa as a No. 10 seed, setting the Hawkeyes up to host first- and second-round games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A loss today against Northwestern wouldn’t necessarily knock Iowa off the bubble, but coach Lisa Bluder’s team dropped six of eight games before bouncing back to beat Indiana and Northwestern. So, it’s probably not a good idea to tempt fate.
MOST TO GAIN
Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue are all hovering in range of a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That would mean a second-round meeting with heavyweights such as Connecticut Notre Dame, Baylor or Stanford — and a likely early exit. Winning the Big Ten championship this week could result in a more favorable draw and less daunting path to the Sweet 16.
SIZING UP IOWA
Perhaps the most inconsistent team in the conference. The Hawkeyes have beaten seven ranked opponents this season, but also suffered eyebrow-raising losses to Northwestern, Minnesota and Florida International. Still, the pieces are in place for a March run.
Senior center Morgan Johnson has recorded nine double-doubles this season. Sophomore point guard Samantha Logic is a tone-setter with her offense and her defense, and Melissa Dixon has emerged as a stellar sub. Iowa’s last appearance in the Big Ten final came just three years ago.
PAST FIVE CHAMPIONS
2012 — Purdue
2011 — Ohio State
2010 — Ohio State
2009 — Ohio State
2008 — Purdue
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball