The Big Ten announced an 18-game women’s basketball schedule for 2021-22. Each school will have a home and away series with five opponents. They will play four single home matchups and four single away games.
The Huskers are coming off an 8th place finish in the Big Ten standings; a number that is a bit deceptive as the B1G had a record seven teams selected for the NCAA tournament. The conference had eight teams ranked or receiving votes last season and finished with the top two offenses in the country (Maryland and Iowa). Seven teams finished in the top 35 in scoring. Four B1G teams made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen (Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Michigan).
It won’t get easier this year as a large chunk of the conference’s top players are returning.
The conference tournament will be held March 2-6, 2022 in Indianapolis.
- Home & Away – Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin
- Home Only – Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers
- Away Only – Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State
The Huskers only have to play perennial conference powerhouse Maryland once, but they have to travel to the east coast to face the Terps.
In the home-and-away Nebraska drew two tough teams and three meh teams (at least according to how they finished last year). The Hoosiers advanced to the Elite Eight in the 2021 NCAA tournament and were pretty close to a Final Four berth (IIRC). I’m not sure how much of their team returns, but there is obviously talent there. Iowa finished as the #2 offense in the country and will return one of the best players in the conference in sophomore Caitlin Clark. Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin all struggled last season, with the Golden Gophers’ woes largely attributable to COVID issues. Minnesota managed to beat the Huskers twice before Nebraska paid them back in the conference tournament.
Nebraska’s home schedule consists of four teams that are all tough to play and I’m glad we get them at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Northwestern and Rutgers are especially known for being excellent defensive teams. If the Huskers were to play home-and-away series with any of these teams, I would predict splits for all of them. I hope that being at home helps tip the balance of those games in Nebraska’s favor.
As far as the away games, Maryland is the most difficult opponent (one that Nebraska has never beaten). Michigan State and Ohio State are typically decent teams (the Buckeyes were ranked at one point last season) but not games I would automatically put into the “L” column. Illinois hasn’t been good for a couple years now and hopefully this season is not the year they rebound.
Overall, this is a managable schedule for Nebraska, who returns everyone except Kate Cain. Her presence in the middle will be missed. The Huskers bring in a talented freshman class to add to a balanced group. Sam Haiby (senior) and Isabelle Bourne (junior) are returning team captains who received All-Conference honors. If Nebraska can work out their consistency issues (and injuries were a huge reason for that), they can be a very competitive team.