Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese scheduled one of the nation’s toughest slates for her team this season, knowing the quick learning that would be needed for a newly-formed squad.
“It’s probably one of the toughest schedules I’ve had here at Maryland,” she said.
Maryland’s first 13 games have been a bit of a rollercoaster, coming out with a 10-3 record, but questions about what team will show on a daily basis remain.
Its three wins against ranked opponents (Baylor, Notre Dame, UConn) is tied for the most in the nation, but it has suffered two losses to teams outside the top 25: Nebraska and DePaul.
“Every year it just feels like top to bottom [the conference] just gets stronger, with even better coaching,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said after the Huskers’ 90-67 win in College Park on Dec. 4.
Splitting its first two Big Ten games against Purdue and Nebraska earlier this season, the No. 16 Terrapins will dive into conference play in the ultra-competitive Big Ten this Friday, with a matchup against unranked Minnesota.
After Maryland’s win at Purdue, Frese said, “Our schedule has helped us in that we’ve played such a tough schedule. I think we don’t even flinch now when we’re in these really competitive environments and games and you know, fortunately for us, this is why we wanted to put a schedule like this, to prepare us for conference play.”
Dec. 30 (Home)
Last year’s result: 87-73 W (A)
The Gophers have seen a slight, yet constant decline in recent years. Head coach Lindsay Whalen took over ahead of a strong 2018-19 season, but success has been hard to come by since then. They have finished below .500 in conference play for the past five seasons and sit at 8-5 this season. Like the Terps, they split their first two Big Ten games, defeating Penn State in a double-overtime thriller before falling to No. 13 Iowa.
Player to watch: Mara Braun
Braun is one of the best freshman in the nation, with the highly-touted four-star guard averaging over 18.1 points per game.
Jan. 2 (Away), Jan. 15 (Home)
Last year’s results: 73-59 W (A), 72-55 W (H)
Like Minnesota, Rutgers is not heading in the right direction. After finding itself in the top half of the conference and making the NCAA Tournament from 2018-2021, last season was a tough one for the Scarlet Knights. After finishing 11-20 with just three conference wins, Coquese Washington was brought in to be the program’s new head coach. A three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year with Penn State, she has begun her rebuild with an incredibly tough early schedule, and her team having an early 6-8 record. Not to mention, Washington’s roster fields just eight players — with just three returners.
Player to watch: Awa Sidibe
One of those returners is senior guard Awa Sidibe, She’s a threat from all areas, with consistent rebounding, defense, and double-digit scoring making her the driving leader of this team that is itching to find some chemistry.
Jan. 7 (Away), Feb. 18 (Home)
Last year’s result: 67-62 W (A)
An experienced Spartan team is looking to take the next step this year, with head coach Suzy Merchant bringing in a few notable transfers. A usually-competitive bubble team, the Spartans are 8-5 on the young season, but have been on the wrong side of some tough contests. An eight-point loss to No. 18 Oregon, an overtime heartbreaker to Purdue and a six-point road defeat to No. 3 Ohio State have showed off Michigan State’s competitiveness. It just recently snapped a five-game skid with a blowout victory against Prairie View A&M.
Player to watch: Kamaria McDaniel
The graduate guard has had a wild career to say the least. After a stellar three-year career at Penn State, which she capped off with a First Team All-Big Ten honor, she transferred to Baylor. Her two years with the Bears were disastrous, with her only playing 10 games due to a knee injury. McDaniel returned to the Big Ten for her sixth and final year of eligibility, and has thrived with the Spartans in the past couple of games, with three 20-plus-point efforts.
No. 4 Indiana
Jan. 12 (Away)
Last year’s results: 63-70 L (OT) (A), 67-64 W (H), 51-62 L (Big Ten Tournament)
The Hoosiers are a powerhouse year in and year out, well on the way to their eighth straight 20-win season. They’ve also made the Sweet 16 the past two seasons on the back of a stingy defense that ranked third in the Big Ten last season and has allowed just 55.8 PPG through its 12-0 start this year. They’ve cruised to victory in all but one game against Illinois, with head coach Teri Moren having her squad looking like a conference contender yet again. Indiana had Maryland’s number last year, taking two of the three top-15 matchups.
Player to watch: Mackenzie Holmes
On a team of numerous elite players, Holmes stands out as one of the best two-way players in the country. The senior forward’s racked up dozens of awards in her tenure at Indiana, and last year’s all-American honorable mention is having yet another outstanding season. The six-foot-three forward leads the Hoosiers in scoring, blocks and rebounds.
Jan. 19 (Away)
Last year’s result: 70-43 W (H)
Head coach Marisa Moseley was given the tough task of turning around a losing Badger program before the 2021-22 campaign. The long process is still in its early stages, with Wisconsin sitting at 4-9 this season. It lost its opening conference matchups against Iowa and Nebraska — both by over 25 points. The Badgers’ defense has struggled immensely this season and will likely be exploited as Big Ten play continues. Maryland is 10-0 all time against Wisconsin, winning the last two by a combined 63 points.
Player to watch: Serah Williams
The six-foot-four freshman is a super-efficient player, averaging almost 12 points a game on over 50% shooting from the field. She ranks in the top three on the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks.
Jan. 22 (Away)
Last year’s result: 80-65 W (H)
Maryland has seen Nebraska’s ability this year, with the Cornhuskers winning in dominant fashion earlier this month. It’s a little surprising to see Nebraska unranked, with head coach Amy Williams leading her team to two ranked victories in its 10-3 start to the season. It has the fourth-most points among teams receiving votes, though. The Huskers are coming off a thrilling triple-overtime victory over No. 22 Kansas.
Player to watch: Jaz Shelley
The junior guard is a dynamic offensive player, leading Nebraska in both points and assists. Named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Watch List in the preseason, she torched the Terps for 29 points in their first matchup this season.
No. 14 Michigan
Jan. 26 (Home)
Last year’s results: 49-69 L (H), 59-71 L (A)
Up five spots in this week’s AP poll after defeating now-No. 13 North Carolina, the Wolverines are off to an 11-1 start on the year. They’re looking to build off of a historic season which saw them advance to their first-ever Elite Eight. Head coach Kim Barnes Arico turned Michigan into a yearly contender since taking over ten years ago, and the two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year has the Maize and Blue rolling yet again, looking to get her third straight victory over Maryland.
Player to watch: Emily Kiser
The graduate forward is a monster on the interior, posing a double-double risk for the opposition every time she’s on the court. She’s has the 12th-most rebounds in Michigan’s history and is averaging over 18 points per game this season.
Jan. 30 (Home)
Last year’s results: 106-78 W (H), 82-71 W (A)
Head coach Carolyn Kieger has developed a lot of individual talent in her four seasons in State College, but getting team success is a work in progress. The Nittany Lions have seen an increase in wins each of the past four years but have yet to eclipse five conference victories. They look to be much improved on the defensive end this season, holding a 9-4 record, but have not had much competition. They did, however, compete valiantly with No. 4 Indiana in a 67-58 loss. Their other conference loss came to Minnesota in overtime, 98-96.
Player to watch: Makenna Marisa
The senior guard has done it all for the Nittany Lions in her four years, and is leading the team yet again. She’s averaging close to 18 points and two steals a game as she looks to build upon a 2021-22 campaign which saw her receive First Team All-Big Ten honors.
Feb. 9 (Away)
Last year’s result: 87-59 W (H)
The Wildcats are off to a very rough start after a solid 2021-22 campaign which saw them just miss out on the NCAA Tournament. They lost star guard Veronica Burton to the WNBA, and the team has struggled without her, en route to a 6-6 start. They’re 0-5 against Power Five opponents, most recently getting blown out by Ohio State, 81-48.
Player to watch: Caileigh Walsh
The sophomore forward has been the Wildcats’ most consistent player this season, efficient on both ends of the floor. The team’s leading scorer has also registered multiple blocks in five of 12 games.
Feb. 12 (Home)
Last year’s result: N/A
Illinois finished last in the conference last season, but is off to a surprisingly strong start. First-year head coach Shauna Green has created a positive buzz around the program for the first time in recent memory, as it’s off to an 11-2 start. The Illini’s only losses came to Delaware (83-80) and No. 4 Indiana (65-61). They have netted impressive victories against Missouri and Butler, and are definitely starting to open some eyes as the full swing of Big Ten action kicks into gear.
Player to watch: Genesis Bryant
The NC State transfer was not much of an impact player in her time with the Wolfpack, but the junior has thrived in her opportunity with Illinois. She has just recently been inputted into the starting lineup after providing double-digit scoring off the bench, She recorded the third triple-double in program history in the team’s last game against Florida Atlantic.
No. 13 Iowa
Feb. 2 (Away), Feb. 21 (Home)
Last year’s result: 81-69 W (A)
The reigning Big Ten champions score — a lot. The seventh-ranked scoring offense in the nation is averaging over 86 points per game, making it dangerous no matter the opponent. The Hawkeyes are off to a 10-3 start, with losses to top-10 opponents in UConn and NC State. They were also upset at Kansas State. Defensively, there are concerns for head coach Lisa Bluder. Her team has allowed over 80 points in each of its defeats. Despite the decent start, Iowa’s explosiveness will always have them dangerous and among the elite.
Player to watch: Caitlin Clark
You aren’t paying enough attention to college basketball if you haven’t heard of Caitlin Clark. She recently tied WNBA star Elena Della Donne for the fastest Division I player to reach 2,000 career points. She takes — and makes — shots from anywhere and everywhere. Her 27 points per game are the third-most in the country .
No. 3 Ohio State
Feb. 5 (Home), Feb. 24 (Away)
Last year’s result: 89-95 L (A), 77-72 W (H)
Ohio State is the consensus best team in the Big Ten, and one of the more likely contenders to try and fend off No. 1 South Carolina for a national title. With three ranked wins, the Buckeyes have stayed steady at No. 3 in the AP poll. While Iowa’s offense is spectacular, Ohio State’s is even better, scoring close to 90 points per game. It has struggled a bit of late, though, barely scraping past South Florida in overtime and allowing Rutgers to keep a 12-point win close in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, the Buckeyes are 13-0 as they look to better their Sweet 16 appearance from last season.
Player to watch: Jacy Sheldon
The senior guard is coming off a season in which she was named to the All-Big Ten first team and all-conference defensive team. She is averaging at least 16 points a game for the third straight season. ESPN has Sheldon as a top-10 pick in its latest 2023 WNBA Mock Draft.
Conference record prediction: 10-6
Inconsistencies have troubled the Terps at times in their young season, and with six games against ranked opponents on tap in the Big Ten, it’s fair to suggest that they’ll continue to grow and learn about themselves as the season goes on. Fans have already seen the depth of the Big Ten on display, with Nebraska dismantling Maryland in its own building and the Terps’ win at Purdue coming down to the final shot. Maryland will face off against Iowa and Ohio State four times in a span of three weeks, starting with a matchup on Feb. 2 in Iowa City and testing the Terps’ resiliency to the maximum.
The Terps finished 13-4 in Big Ten play last season, and with a majority of the team not having experience in the nation’s toughest conference, a small dip should be expected.