First, a mea culpa. In my summer update article, I used the term ‘best player in program history’ in reference to Jess Shepard and her transfer to Notre Dame. Several people, rightfully, took me to task over that remark. My only defense is that a couple of hastily written sentences that I was trying to shorten, combined with a lack of editing before publication resulted in a sentence that wasn’t thought out. My thinking at the time was along the lines of of “highest ranked recruit in program history” and “best player in the program”. Throwing around a phrase like “best in program history” shouldn’t be published as lightly as I did it. If you need me, I’ll be writing “Kelsey Griffin is awesome” 200 times on Cobby’s chalkboard.
Conference Opener vs Ohio State
Tonight’s game information:
Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4, 0-0) vs. No. 12/11 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2, 0-0)Thursday
Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Nebraska)
TV: BTN (Jordan Bernfield, Brenda VanLengen)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network; Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln - B107.3 FM; Omaha - CD 105.9 FM
Free Live Audio: Huskers.com/Huskers App
Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4, 0-0 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 10.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 11.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 13.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - F - 6.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg
The continued absence of Taylor Kissinger in the starting lineup is worrisome as her knee must not be healing as quickly as hoped. After missing so much time, it will take a while for the freshman to get back up to speed even after she is back on the court. The team is handling her absence well enough, but will need her scoring abilities to get through a rugged Big Ten in a position for an NCAA tournament bid.
No. 12/11 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2, 0-0 Big Ten)
1 - Stephanie Mavunga - 6-3 - RSr. - F - 15.5 ppg, 11.6 rpg
3 - Kelsey Mitchell - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 26.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg
4 - Sierra Calhoun - 6-0 - Jr. - G - 13.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg
15 - Linnae Harper - 5-8 - RSr. - G - 15.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg
20 - Asia Doss - 5-7 - Jr. - G - 9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Either Nicea Eliely or Jasmine Cincore will likely have their hands full in defending one of the country’s top scorers in Kelsey Mitchell. The Buckeyes are averaging 91.4 points per game so far this season. They are also the worst defensive team in the B1G, allowing teams to score 71.5 points per game.
If the Huskers can play lockdown defense and have one or two players get a hot hand in scoring, they might pull off an upset. This is a young and talented, but inconsistent, team. They should be fun to watch as they develop over the next two seasons.
Outlook In the Big Ten
The Big Ten is playing a 16 game schedule this season and will move to an 18 game schedule in 2018-19.
The current rankings show Ohio State and Maryland as the top teams in the conference with Michigan and Iowa being in the next tier. Michigan State and a surprising Rutgers squad are both in the ‘receiving votes’ category. The Huskers play eight games against those six teams. If the Huskers can go .500 in conference play they would finish the regular season at 17-12. That wouldn’t likely be enough to secure an NCAA tournament berth, but may be enough for the WNIT.
If this team can continue to grow and mature, they might steal a couple games vs ranked B1G teams and put themselves into “bubble” territory for the Dance. This roster is shorthanded (two open scholarships if I am doing my math right). Another consideration is that injuries have already caused a great deal of shuffling and missed games. Teams generally don’t get healthier throughout the course of a season. This is a young and inexperienced Husker team, but one that is learning how to play close, hard-fought games and that should serve them well.
I’m going to be an optimist and hope that Nebraska’s young team plays their way to a .500 record in the conference and earns a WNIT spot. I could see this team wining a couple in WNIT play and gaining some momentum for a 2018-19 season. That will be a very interesting one as much of the core of this team will be more experienced and starting to join the ranks of upperclassmen.
- The Big Ten ranks No. 4 in Tuesday’s Collegiate Basketball News conference RPI index (found at RPIratings.com). What’s more, nine Big Ten schools are among the top 70 in the team RPI rankings as noted by NCAA.com and Collegiate Basketball News. Rutgers leads the group at No. 6, followed by No. 8 Ohio State and No. 24 Iowa. Maryland is next at No. 41, with Michigan State at No. 42, Michigan at No. 47, Minnesota at No. 56, Purdue at No. 57 and Penn State at No. 67.
- The Big Ten has eight schools appearing in the top 70 of Tuesday’s Sagarin ratings, including six in the top 30. The conference contingent is led by No. 11 Maryland, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 20 Rutgers, No. 23 Iowa, No. 25 Michigan State and No. 27 Michigan. Also in the top 70 are No. 51 Minnesota and No. 69 Purdue.
- Six Big Ten schools are ranked or receiving votes in the latest Associated Press or USA Today polls, led by No. 12 (AP)/No. 11 (USA Today) Ohio State. Maryland is also ranked in both polls at No. 15/14, as are Michigan at No. 21/19 (the Wolverines have been ranked all eight weeks this season, the second-longest run in school history behind a nine-week stretch in 2001-02) and Iowa at No. 23/21, while Michigan State and Rutgers are earning votes in both polls. Ten of the 14 Big Ten schools have been ranked or receiving votes in the polls for at least one week this year.
- No. 23/21 Iowa posted a 12-1 non-conference record, the Hawkeyes’ best start since 2010-11 (also 12-1) and the second-best start in head coach Lisa Bluder’s 18 seasons at Iowa (13-0 in 2004-05).
- No. 21/19 Michigan went 11-2 in non-conference play, the fourth time in program history the Wolverines have won 11 non-conference games. It also ties Michigan’s best start since 2012-13, head coach Kim Barnes Arico’s first season at the school. With a 122-65 (.652) record in six seasons at Michigan, Arico is also poised to become the program’s career coaching wins leader, needing one victory to catch Sue Guevara, who went 123-72 (.631) at the school from 1996-2003.
- All 14 Big Ten schools will head into conference play with winning or .500 records, including seven programs that earned at least 10 wins in non-conference action.