- Sep 9, 2015
- Reaction score
The 2024 NCAA title hunt appears more wide open, with as many as eight contenders. We break down the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Top 25.
Here are the B1G teams:
Celeste Taylor. With athletes like Taylor Thierry and Cotie McMahon, who goes from Big Ten Freshman of the Year to one of the country's best players, and the experience of Jacy Sheldon and Rebeka Mikulasikova, the Buckeyes fast break their way to a Big Ten championship and get to play in their first Final Four since 1993 in nearby Cleveland.
Worst case: The press generates plenty of turnovers and easy baskets against the weaker part of Ohio State's schedule, but the shooting that Taylor Mikesell took to the professional ranks is missed greatly. The Buckeyes struggle in big games when they need to execute in the half court. The Big Ten title slips away with a regular-season finale loss at Iowa. and Ohio State's NCAA tournament stay ends on the first weekend.
6. Iowa HawkeyesBest case: All the cries from within the Iowa program that the Hawkeyes are more than just Caitlin Clark prove to be true. Hannah Stuelke goes from a good player off the bench to all-conference level performer. The scoring averages of Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Molly Davis jump considerably. That means that Clark leads the country in scoring and assists, just like she did as a sophomore, and Iowa not only gets back to the championship game, but wins it all. Clark rides off to the WNBA as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer -- she's 810 points shy of Kelsey Plum's NCAA Division I scoring record -- and a national champion.
Worst case: Topping last season proves to be too difficult. There is just no replacing Monika Czinano, and without her, Clark's assists numbers drop. That no other player on the roster besides Clark, Marshall and Martin has started a game at Iowa before this season shows, especially during the heat of the Big Ten race. Clark must do too much and wears down late in the season. It's Sweet 16 and done for the Hawkeyes.
10. Indiana HoosiersBest case: Teri Moren has proven she knows how to make all the pieces fit, especially when she has experienced players, and everyone and everything fits perfectly this year. With Mackenzie Holmes outplaying Cameron Brink in a November meeting with Stanford, the Hoosiers once again enter the Final Four conversation. Iowa arrives in Bloomington on Feb. 22 with the Big Ten title on the line, and Indiana's collection of guards -- Sara Scalia, Sydney Parrish, Chloe Moore-McNeil and Yarden Garzon -- outmaneuver the Hawkeyes' Clark as the Hoosiers win the conference for the second year in a row. This time, there is no second-round NCAA tournament upset. Indiana reaches its first Final Four.
Worst case: Holmes remains great, but Indiana doesn't play nearly as well without Grace Berger as it did last year when she was out for a stretch with an injury. Her absence looms large over the program, and the Hoosiers slip to third in the Big Ten behind Iowa and Ohio State. There is no breakthrough in the NCAA tournament, either.
13. Maryland TerrapinsBest case: With four graduate students in the rotation and a potential star in Shyanne Sellers to build around, the Terps don't suffer a bit after losing two WNBA first-round draft picks in Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers. Sellers establishes herself as one of the country's best and most versatile players. Games late in the season against Ohio State and Indiana are pivotal to the Big Ten race, and Maryland surprises many by finishing second and then getting to the Sweet 16.
Worst case: As good as Sellers becomes, it's apparent how many holes Miller plugged for the Terps. Without her, Maryland's problems on defense and rebounding are more exposed. The Terrapins ranked 275th in points allowed per game and 285th in defensive rebounding rate. Those issues only worsen without any significant size added to the roster and the absence of Miller's perimeter length. That means a fifth-place Big Ten finish and a second-round NCAA tournament exit.