Big Ten Tournament Preview

Conseco Field House, Indianapolis, Indiana March 3-7 <p> The Lady Lions were in position to win a share of their third straight conference title last weekend. However, Penn State fell to Ohio State and thus enters the tournament with the No. 3 seed. The third seed still earns the Lady Lions a first-round bye before they face the winner of the Iowa-Michigan matchup in the second round.

Jess Strom and Tanisha Wright were both All-Big Ten first-team selections. Wright averaged 19.6 points per game to finish in a tie for the scoring title with the Buckeyes' sophomore center Jessica Davenport. She was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. The Lady Lions will have to rely heavily on their backcourt if they want to make noise in the postseason.

Penn State leads the conference in free throw shooting, hitting 78 percent of their attempts.

Here's a look at how the other teams look going into the tournament:

No. 1 Ohio State (27-3, 14-2)

The Buckeyes got the nod as the No. 1 seed over Michigan State because they went 1-1 against Penn State. The Spartans dropped their only meeting with the Lady Lions. Ohio State will take on the winner of No. 8 Wisconsin against No. 9 Indiana.

Player to watch: Davenport was named Big Ten Player of the Year while averaging 21.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks in conference games. Against the Lady Lions in the regular season finale, she put up 29 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks.

Stat watch: Ohio State leads the conference in points per game (73.0) and is limiting opponents to a conference-best 52.1 points per game. The Buckeyes also lead the Big Ten in field goal percentage (51.3) and 3-point field goal percentage (40.0).

No. 2 Michigan State (25-3, 14-2)

The Spartans enter the tournament having won nine games in a row. The second seed is as high a seed as Michigan State has ever earned for this tournament. The Spartans will face the winner of No. 7 Illinois and No. 10 Northwestern.

Player to watch: Coaches' All-Big Ten first-team selection Kristin Haynie leads league in assists, averaging 5.35 dimes per game. The senior guard also had more steals than any player in the conference, averaging 3.45 per game.

Stat watch: The Spartans lead the conference in steals per game (10.64) and offensive rebounds per game (16.54). They also have the best turnover margin (+3.07) in the Big Ten.

No. 4 Minnesota (22-6, 12-4) vs. No. 5 Purdue (16-11, 9-7)

These two teams will get first round byes and will face each other in the second round of the tournament on Friday, with the winner likely facing Ohio State. The Golden Gophers dominated the Boilermakers in two regular season matchups, outscoring them 129-87 in a pair of victories. Purdue has won consecutive games just once since Jan. 13.

Players to watch: Minnesota center Janel McCarville was named to the All-Big Ten first team. She leads the conference in rebounding (10.1 per game) and is second in the conference in blocked shots (2.12 per game). Meanwhile, Boilermakers' guard Katie Gearlds averages 13.8 points per game and shoots 88 percent from the free throw line.

Stat watch: Minnesota allows the second fewest points per game in the conference (54.9). Meanwhile, Purdue leads the Big Ten in blocked shots, averaging six per game.

No. 6 Iowa (19-8, 8-8) vs. No. 11 Michigan (5-22, 1-15)

The Hawkeyes took both regular season matchups against the Wolverines with an average margin of victory of 13.5 points. They meet again today. Neither of these teams was able to post a win against the Lady Lions, who await the winner of this matchup in the second round.

Players to watch: Iowa center Jamie Cavey was an All-Big Ten second-team selection. She averaged 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during the regular season. She also shot 56.2 percent from the field. Meanwhile, senior forward Tabitha Pool leads the Wolverines with 16.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Stat watch: Michigan is last in the conference in free throw shooting, hitting just 67.1 percent of its attempts. The Hawkeyes have the second worst turnover margin in the Big Ten at -2.22.

No.7 Illinois (16-11, 7-9) vs. No. 10 Northwestern (5-24, 2-14)

The Illini have won 11 in a row against the Wildcats and took the only meeting this year 73-65. The winner of today's game will take on Michigan State in the second round. Illinois lost to the Spartans twice this season by an average of 14.5 points. Meanwhile, Northwestern dropped its only meeting to Michigan State by an astounding score of 101-40.

Players to watch: Illinois forward Angelina Williams was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches. She averaged 18 points per game in the regular season and put up 22 in the teams' earlier matchup. Northwestern doesn't have a single player in the top 20 in scoring in the conference. Ifeoma Okonkwo leads the Wildcats, averaging 11.7 points per game.

Stat watch: Northwestern had the worst rebounding margin in the Big Ten as its opponents averaged 5.7 more rebounds per game than the Wildcats. Illinois made the fewest 3-pointers in the conference and averaged just 2.85 makes per game from beyond the arc.

No. 8 Wisconsin (11-15, 5-11) vs. No. 9 Indiana (10-17, 3-13)

These two teams have met in the first round of the Big Ten tournament three straight years. The Hoosiers beat the Badgers 57-39 in the first round of the tournament last year. Indiana beat Wisconsin 71-66 in the teams' only meeting this year, but the Hoosiers enter the tournament having lost four in a row. Top-seeded Ohio State awaits the winner of this game.

Players to watch: Wisconsin guard Jolene Anderson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and averaged 18.1 points per game for the Badgers in the regular season. The Hoosiers are led by guard Cyndi Valentin, who averaged 15 points per game and shot 82 percent from the free throw line in the regular season.

Stat watch: The Badgers made the most 3-pointers per game in the conference, averaging 5.69 per contest. Indiana finished atop the conference in opponents' field goal percentage, as teams shot just 36 percent against the Hoosiers in the regular season.


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