It is a close race heading into the final stretch of the 2019-20 season for the Big Ten as there are 10 teams that are within two games of being in first place. Although there are many teams within striking distance of winning the Big Ten this season, it is likely a three or four team race between Northwestern, Rutgers, Iowa and Indiana to see who will end on top.
Here are the standings as of January 17th:
Northwestern (15-2, 5-1 Big Ten) The Wildcats have been a slight surprise so far in the season as they have only two losses after going 21-15 last season. They have two solid wins against Indiana and Maryland thus far and their lone conference loss came at the hands of Iowa. Lindsey Pulliam and Abbie Wolf will need to continue their solid play down the stretch to secure a Big Ten title. Next three opponents: vs. Penn State 1/19, @ Michigan State 1/23, @ Maryland 1/26.
Rutgers (15-2, 5-1 Big Ten) Led by Arella Guirantes scoring 19.1 points per game, Rutgers has come out of the gates hot in Big Ten play and have won their last four games. They are contending for the top spot in the conference but have not had a marquee win in conference play as they have not beaten a team with a record above .500. Their only loss so far came against their toughest test in Indiana and will need to beat some of the top teams in the conference to prove they belong at the top. Next three opponents: vs. Michigan State 1/20, @ Michigan 1/26, vs. Illinois 1/30.
Iowa (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) The Hawkeyes could be viewed as the favorite at the moment to take the Big Ten title given their track record thus far in the season as they have beaten both Indiana and Maryland who are just a game behind in the conference. The tandem of Monika Czinano (15.7 points per game) and Kathleen Doyle (18.1 points per game) will need to continue their success for Iowa to succeed this season. Next three opponents: @ Wisconsin 1/19, vs. Ohio State, vs. Michigan State 1/26.
Indiana (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) After starting the year 14-2, the Hoosiers have dropped their last two contests against two of the three teams tied for first in the conference (Iowa and Northwestern). Although they are tied for fourth place at the moment, their conference losses have been close games that they were just unable to squeak out with a win in. Indiana should not be overlooked heading down the stretch. Next three opponents: @ Maryland 1/20, @ Penn State 1/23, vs. Minnesota 1/27.
Maryland (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten) The 20th ranked Terrapins were picked first in the preseason Big Ten poll but find themselves tied for fourth place after losses to two of the three teams tied for first place similarly to Indiana. They do have solid wins against Nebraska, Michigan twice and Ohio State. Next three opponents: vs. Indiana 1/20, @ Illinois 1/23, vs. Northwestern 1/26.
Nebraska (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) Nebraska has lost their last two games against Rutgers and Maryland to fall to 3-3 in conference play after starting 3-1 with their only coming coming to Michigan State on the road. They have the opportunity to gain back ground over the course of the next month when they play teams that they are either tied with or ahead of on the standings. Next three opponents: vs. Michigan 1/19, vs. Purdue 1/22, @ Wisconsin 1/25.
Michigan (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) If not for two losses against Maryland this season, Michigan would be closer to first place as their only other loss is against Ohio State. They have wins over Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin but will need to show up in the big games to move up the standings. Next three opponents: @ Nebraska 1/19, vs. Rutgers 1/26, @ Northwestern 1/30.
Purdue (12-6, 3-3 Big Ten) Sharon Versyp’s team started off well with a record of 11-3 and 2-0 to start Big Ten play but then lost three straight games to Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern who are all very solid squads. They recently got back in the win column against Illinois and will have a relatively soft schedule the rest of the month to make up ground in conference. Next three opponents: vs. Minnesota 1/19, @ Nebraska 1/22, vs. Penn State 1/26.
Michigan State (10-7, 3-3 Big Ten) Sparty started off extremely poorly in Big Ten play going 1-3 after their first four, but have since won two in a row to get back to .500. They have a very rough schedule coming up with 6 of their next 7 contests coming against teams in the top four of the Big Ten standings. Next three opponents: @ Rutgers 1/20, vs. Northwestern 1/23, @ Iowa 1/26.
Ohio State (10-7, 3-3 Big Ten) The lady Buckeyes have had an up and down season thus far with wins against Louisville, Michigan and Minnesota but also suffered losses against Ohio and South Dakota. Their Big Ten record is indicative of the season overall as they sit at .500 in conference play. Next three opponents: vs. Illinois 1/19, @ Iowa 1/23, vs. Maryland.
Minnesota (11-6, 1-5 Big Ten) The Gophers have been a disappointment so far this season as they were picked to finish 5th in the Big Ten preseason poll but find themselves tied for last place with only a single conference win over another last place team in Penn State. They took another blow this week when their leading scorer Destiny Pitts announced she would transfer after being suspended indefinitely for “body language” and no I do not get it either. Next three opponents: @ Purdue 1/19, vs. Wisconsin 1/22, @ Indiana 1/27.
Illinois (10-7, 1-5 Big Ten) Illinois started the year at 9-2 heading into Big Ten play but now have won only one game since their win at Mizzou in late December. Time for the Illini to just play hard and wait to contend next year. Next three opponents: @ Ohio State 1/19, vs. Maryland 1/23, @ Rutgers 1/30.
Wisconsin (9-8, 1-5 Big Ten) Wisconsin has struggled mightily all year and their luck has not changed since starting Big Ten play as their lone win is against Penn State. They have some good pieces in place and will look to build for the future the rest of the season. Next three opponents: vs. Iowa 1/19, @ Minnesota 1/22, vs. Nebraska 1/25.
Penn State (7-10, 1-5 Big Ten) The only Big Ten squad with a losing overall record, the Lady Lions just are not very good. Next three opponents: @ Northwestern 1/19, vs. Indiana 1/23, @ Purdue 1/26.