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The Iowa women, led by Caitlin Clark, are picked to win the loaded Big Ten

The Iowa women, led by Caitlin Clark, are picked to win the loaded Big Ten

(AP) – The Big Ten is getting tougher in women’s basketball.

The conference sent four teams to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2022 for the second straight year and leads the nation with six programs in the Associated Press preseason Top 25.

Caitlin Clark, who may go down as one of the greatest college players of all time, leads a fourth-ranked Iowa team that returns five starters for the third straight year and is in contention to win the league title.

“I think the rest of us will get after that,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. โ€œThe great thing about parity in our league, proven night in, night out, is there’s no such thing as a safe game, is there? If you’re talking top or bottom, the bottom is making strides and they’re going to compete every night.”

No. 11 Indiana filled his backcourt needs through the transfer window and is projected after finishing fifth last season. No. 14 Ohio State returns its top three scorers from the team that shared the title with Iowa.

No. 17 Maryland lost key players but brought in five transfers that should help offset any layoffs for a team that was a half-game out of first place. No. 22 Nebraska enters the preseason for the first time since 2014 with a veteran roster led by Alexis Markowski.

Now consider No. 25 Michigan, the only Big Ten team to make the Elite Eight. Although the Wolverines lost star Naz Hillmon, their next four leading scorers return and a 2021 McDonald’s All-American was brought out of the gate. They were picked fifth, which is a testament to the strength of the Big Ten.

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Arico Michigan coach Kim Barnes said she wouldn’t be surprised if the conference ended its national championship drought this season. Purdue’s last Big Ten national title was in 1999. Maryland was in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it won in 2006.

“I think our league is going to be more challenging than ever,” Barnes Arico said. “Obviously, Caitlin Clark is a great basketball player, but I think there are great players from top to bottom in our league, as well as coaches.”

NEW COACHES

Rutgers’ Coquese Washington and Illinois’ Shauna Green are the only first-year coaches.

Washington was an associate head coach at Notre Dame the past two seasons. He replaces C. Vivian Stringer, a Basketball Hall of Famer who retired in April after 27 seasons and 50 as head coach at Rutgers.

Green coached Dayton to four NCAA Tournament appearances in six years and replaced Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Fahey, who retired after five seasons with the Illini.

COME AND GO

Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs are among five Division I transfers at Maryland. Alexander was Vanderbilt’s leading scorer last season, averaging 15.2 points per game, and Briggs was averaging better than 12 points per game for Florida when a shin injury ended his season in January. He averaged 19.5 points for the Gators in 2020-21.

Indiana bolstered its backcourt by adding Minnesota’s Sara Scalia and Oregon’s Sydney Parrish. Scalia was a 41% 3-point shooter and averaged 17.8 points last season.

Michigan brought in 2021 McDonald’s All-American Greta Kampschroeder from Oregon State, where she had an up-and-down rookie season.

Kamaria McDaniel landed at Michigan State, her third school after two years at Penn State and the last two at Baylor. Was the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer (19.8 ppg) in 2019-20.

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Taniyah Thompson leads the list of three Division I transfers at Penn State. Thompson was the American Athletic Conference’s second-leading scorer (18.5 ppg) for East Carolina.

TO SEE THE NEWS

Ohio State has the conference’s top-rated freshman in forward Cotie McMahon, who enrolled last spring. He averaged 14.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in six games while helping Team USA win the FIBA โ€‹โ€‹U18 Americas Championship.

Two Minnesota State recruits were ranked in the top 50 nationally. Amanda Battle was the state’s 2022 Miss Basketball and fellow guard Mara Braun averaged more than 18 points per game in her high school career.

Nebraska’s Maggie Mendleson was the No. 2 volleyball recruit in the nation, and the middle blocker has appeared in 10 games for one of the nation’s top programs. The basketball forward center was ranked No. 32 in the HoopGurlz-ESPNW basketball rankings.

START BIG GAMES

Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland and Nebraska will test early.

Ohio State hosts No. 5 Tennessee on Nov. 8, Maryland hosts defending champion South Carolina on Nov. 11, Indiana visits Tennessee on Nov. 14, Nebraska travels to Omaha to play No. 21 Creighton on Nov. 15 and Maryland travels to No. 18 Baylor on Nov. 20.

Iowa will play either Duke or No. 6 Connecticut over Thanksgiving weekend in Portland, Oregon, and host No. 10 North Carolina State on Dec. 1 and No. 8 Iowa on Dec. 7.

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