With the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament underway in Minneapolis, we reached out to Wyatt Crosher, the publisher of Hoopla, a newsletter covering Big Ten women’s basketball.
Without further ado, make sure to subscribe to Hoopla and read what Wyatt had to say:
Q: Indiana is set to play either Michigan State or Nebraska in its first round game. Nebraska can cause problems and Michigan State was one of the Hoosiers’ two losses on the season. Which do you believe would present a bigger chance for an upset and how does each match up?
While I do think Indiana will have the advantage on either of its first opponents, Michigan State is the team that feels more dangerous to face. The Spartans were able to beat the Hoosiers despite Mackenzie Holmes scoring 32 and 12, and they can be a pesky team that forces turnovers and has a lot of scoring options.
Obviously, Grace Berger didn’t play in that first matchup, so Indiana should be favored in the rematch, but Michigan State’s deeper weapons is more of a threat than Nebraska. That being said, the Huskers took Indiana to OT in Bloomington, so they’re no slouch, but the Hoosiers are well equipped to slow down their two stars, Jaz Shelley and Alexis Markowski.
Q: What impressed you the most about Indiana during the conference season? We’ve seen a lot of Indiana, but what’s their identity to you?
Both of these questions wrap into one answer for me. What has impressed me the most about this version of Indiana is its ability to transform its identity into whatever is needed for that specific opponent.
Indiana has been able to run in transition with the faster-paced teams or slow it down and run a half court offense, and its been able to do both without missing a beat. Getting three-point shooting for Berger and Holmes has been critical in helping this, and has given the Hoosiers an extra gear that those previous teams lacked.
Q: On a similar note, a staple of Teri Moren’s tenure has been making precise adjustments after halftime and the team being able to execute. Have you observed the same?
Third Quarter Indiana is a terrifying, visceral version of an already great team. There have been so many times this season where a team sticks with the Hoosiers for 20 minutes, just to get the pants blown off them in the next 10.
First game against Ohio State, second game against Michigan and both games against Purdue, the list goes on. Teri Moren gets this team ready to just decimate opponents during that halftime, both with adjustments and with finding some sort of extra intensity that opponents just aren’t ready for.
Q: Looking to the future: Indiana stands to lose just two players in Grace Berger and Alyssa Geary. The former is a tremendous loss, but Indiana is always more than one key piece. What kind of outlook should that give them next season as they bring in the same number of freshmen?
Assuming the transfer portal doesn’t make a major impact, it’s hard to see Indiana falling far, even with the loss of such a key piece in Berger. Holmes is still a superstar to work around, and if Yarden Garzon makes a jump in year two, she has the talent to be a First-Team All-Big Ten type player. It also doesn’t hurt that the Hoosiers are bringing in a pair of top-100 guards who seem to have a similar archetype to Garzon and Parrish, aka long guards that can score in all phases.
For as excellent as Berger is, and her shot-making late in shot clocks will be missed, Indiana might have an even more free-flowing offense next season. This will be a team with a starting five that will all thrive by playing faster, and that could lead to some offensive fireworks. I’ll just trust Moren that the defense will stay great.
Q: From your vantage point, how well is the conference as a whole positioned for March? I’d say there’s potential for deep runs from Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State and perhaps a sleeper.
At the top, this is the best I’ve felt about the Big Ten’s chances in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana is the second-best team in the country without question, Maryland is playing like a one-seed and Iowa, while volatile, has the highs to beat anybody when it’s clicking.
All three of those teams can and should be in the Elite Eight, and Ohio State has the potential to make a run there as well, especially if it can get Jacy Sheldon back. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Illinois gives some poor 1 or 2 seed a battle in the Round of 32.
Right now, I’m just rooting for eight teams to make it. Purdue should be in as the seventh, but Nebraska and Michigan State are deeply on the bubble.
Q: Last one: who plays in the conference title game and who emerges victorious?
I’m expecting some great games in this tournament, but I’m also expecting very few upsets. It would be a total stunner if the top three Big Ten teams didn’t make it to the semis, and Ohio State has owned Michigan to this point, so it could be the best of the best let on Saturday.
I’m going with Indiana-Maryland in the final. An Iowa rematch would be amazing, but the Terps just obliterated the Hawkeyes last Tuesday, and Maryland is playing its best basketball right now.
That game would also be excellent, and will come down to Maryland’s ability to take Holmes out of the game, which it did very well with Iowa’s Monika Czinano. But, I do think Indiana’s more equipped to slow down the Terps, and will win the tournament in a close, lower-scoring battle.