Big Ten Roundup: Jan 17
Five games into Big Ten play, the Michigan women’s basketball team has lost only once — against Ohio State on Jan 7.
The Wolverines are ranked third in the conference, with the Buckeyes and No. 3 Maryland — according to both the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll — notching second and first, respectively. Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State have received votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll, too.
Though Michigan (4-1 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) isn’t having an unprecedented start to conference play, it is shaping up to be one of the most competitive rosters the Wolverines have recently seen. Hopes were high after last year’s performance, but Michigan did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament and instead headed to the WNIT for the third season in a row.
This year, the Wolverines are determined to fight their way to a — rightful — position in the NCAA Tournament, and the next stop on the road to redemption is an away game at Maryland on Thursday.
“(Maryland’s) a great program,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico after Sunday’s win against Minnesota. “One of the top programs in the country. We’re going to go in with nothing to lose. We’ve played them in some real tough games in the last couple of years. I think we have a certain level of confidence.”
But even without an upset against Maryland, the Wolverines are on their way to a substantial season if powerhouses sophomore center Hallie Thome and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty continue to dominate the court.
Thome and Flaherty have been consistent starters, along with junior guard Jillian Dunston and senior guard Siera Thompson. Pushing her way into the lineup this season has been freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick — who’s been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times — who typically trails just Thome and Flaherty in points per game.
The Big Ten season isn’t even halfway over, but the conference is turning into a battle with few wildcards. The Daily breaks down the most threatening upcoming competition for Michigan.
No. 3 Maryland (5-0, 17-1)
Terrapin coach Brenda Frese recently earned her 50th Big Ten victory against Iowa on Jan 14. It was just her 57th career conference game, earning her the title of third-fastest coach to win that many games in conference history.
Adding to the impressive team is senior center Brionna Jones, who was just named the espnW and USBWA National Player of the Week —as well as being named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the third time this season. Jones averaged 33.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game with a .727 field-goal percentage and two double-doubles over the past two games.
Though Maryland seems slightly invincible, they aren’t undefeated — though the loss was to No.1 University of Connecticut. What the game does show, though, is the Terrapins’ vulnerability once their shooting percentage dips. If Michigan can promote its presence on defense, the Wolverines could pull this one out.
Northwestern (3-2, 14-4)
The Wildcats are grappling with the death of one of their teammates, Jordan Hankins, who passed away a week ago. In Northwestern’s first game back after the shock, they fought hard against Indiana and walked away with an emotional 80-67 win.
Guard Nia Coffey has notched 10 double doubles this year — second in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation. Supporting Northwestern is guard Ashley Dreary who broke the Big Ten all-time steals record on Jan. 3 against Ohio. In total, Dreary holds 383 — something the Wolverines will need to be wary of in their contest with the Wildcats at the end of the month.
Michigan State (3-2, 13-5)
Adding to the turbulent turn of events for certain Big Ten teams, Spartan’s coach Suzy Merchant announced on Tuesday that she will be taking a medical leave of absence after Saturday’s game at Rutgers. Her symptoms were similar to the ones she had on Jan. 1, when she collapsed during a home game against Illinois.
The coach's record is 116-13, when reaching at least 70 points in a game.
Michigan will have to defend against the Spartans reaching this marker. Michigan State will lead the charge with guard Tori Jankoska, who is just 127 points away from becoming the first Spartan player to reach the 2,000 point mark in program history.