In-depth Look Inside the 2013 Big Ten Women's Basketball Championships

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The bracket is set for the 2013 Big Ten Women's Basketball Championships and below is all of the information that you need to get ready for the four-day event that will begin on March 7 and culminate with one team earning an automatic big into the NCAA Tournament.

8621079.jpegThough there are just a handful of teams that have locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament, I believe there are eight or nine teams that have a legitimate chance to walk away from the Sears Centre Arena with the tournament crown.

Visit the 2013 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament Central by clicking here.

RPI and Strength of Schedule rankings from WarrenNolan.com

No. 1 Seed - Penn State Lady Lions (24-4, 14-2 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - 8; RPI - 5; Strength of Schedule - 13
Top Scorer: Maggie Lucas, 20.5 ppg
Top Rebounder: Nikki Greene, 8.5 rpg

Penn State closed out the season with a big momentum win at Nebraska to sew up their second straight outright Big Ten regular season championship and did it in front of 10,832 red-clad fans. Maggie Lucas should get more than a little consideration for Big Ten Player of the Year after averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.2 assists per game, all while logging nearly 35 minutes a contest. Two of the top defenders in the conference, Alex Bentley and Dara Taylor both average 3.6 and 2.5 steals, respectively, and both average over three assists a game.

If that wasn't enough, both Bentley and Lucas are among the top-10 in school history in scoring and add a third 1,000-point contributor in Nikki Greene, who also gives you 85 rebounds per outing. As a team, Penn State averages 74.4 points on the season, which leads the Big Ten, and is giving up just 58.7 points. The Lady Lions are forcing 20 turnovers a game, but give it away 15 times a contest and they struggled at the end of each month, losing their final games in November, January and February, but those are about the only negative stats I can give you.

No. 2 Seed - Nebraska Cornhuskers (22-7, 12-4 Big Ten)
AP Ranking- 21; RPI - 15; Strength of Schedule - 15
Top Scorer: Jordan Hooper, 17.9 ppg
Top Rebounder: Jordan Hooper, 8.7 rpg

After starting the Big Ten slate at 2-3, Nebraska showed why they are one of the most talented teams in the conference and a dangerous team in the postseason. The Huskers reeled off ten straight wins to get to 12-3 and had a chance to share the Big Ten title with Penn State if they could have won on their home floor in the final women's game ever at the Devaney Center. The Huskers have two of the top players in the conference in Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore, along with Emily Cady on the interior. Hooper averages a team-best 17.9 points on 40 percent shooting and 8.7 rebounds a game, while Moore gives you 15 points and 5.4 assists per game, with only 74 turnovers as the point guard. Cady is a solid option inside for NU with 9.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a contest in 29 starts.

No. 3 Seed - Purdue Boilermakers (21-8, 10-6 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - RV; RPI - 18; Strength of Schedule - 16
Top Scorer: Courtney Moses, 13.2 ppg
Top Rebounder: Sam Ostarello, 9.9 rpg

Last year's Big Ten Tournament Champions lost three of last five games, finished the year with a win over Illinois. The Boilermakers are a balanced team with a pair of great guards and two skilled inside players. The backcourt includes the speedy KK Houser and outside threat Courtney Moses, while seniors Drey Mingo and Sam Ostarello present one of the toughest frontcourt combinations in the conference. Moses has been the key all season for the Boilermakers and averages 13.2 points per game on 44 percent shooting and is hitting 92 percent of her free throws. Houser paced the team with 138 assists and 55 steals, but is a foul risk and turnover prone (121 on the year). Mingo (13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Ostarello (9.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg) are two major options in the post.

No. 4 Seed - Michigan State Spartans (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - RV; RPI - 27; Strength of Schedule - 52
Top Scorer: Klarissa Bell, 11.4 ppg
Top Rebounder: Courtney Schiffauer, 6.4 rpg

You have to give head coach Suzy Merchant and her team, who lost three players to season-ending injuries early in the year, still had enough firepower to grab the fourth seed entering the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans share the ball well, averaging 13.8 assists per game, and four players have handed out 65-plus assists. Their shots come from a variety of players, but Klarissa Bell is the headliner on the team with 11.4 points per game. The unselfish brand of basketball also shows on the defensive end. Opponents score just 51 points per game - 59 in Big Ten play - which keep them in a lot of games. Annalise Pickrel is a candidate for Sixth Player of the Year with 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds off the bench.

No. 5 Seed - Michigan Wolverines (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 31; Strength of Schedule - 30
Top Scorer: Kate Thompson, 14.9 ppg
Top Rebounder: Rachel Sheffer, 6.1 rpg

Michigan sat tied atop the Big Ten standings at 4-0 when the Lady Lions - with a 4-0 mark of their own - topped the Wolverines in the Crisler Center, 59-49, and since then have won just five of their last seven conference games to fall to the fifth seed for the championships. Even with four players averaging double figures, Michigan has struggled keeping up with some of the more offensive teams. The Wolverines have a multitude of players that can knock down jump shots, but do not have a true presence on the inside. If you can keep leading scorer Kate Thompson under wraps and frustrate point guard Jenny Ryan you have a good chance to come away with a win.

No. 6 Seed - Illinois Fighting Illini (16-12, 9-7 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 63; Strength of Schedule - 32
Top Scorer: Karisma Penn, 19.4 ppg
Top Rebounder: Karisma Penn, 9.9 rpg

Head coach Matt Bollant did a great job turning this squad into a competitor in just his first season at the helm. The team improved by five victories and posted their first winning record in Big Ten play since 2002-03. Illinois is a talented squad with a pure shooter, Amber Moore, tenacious defender, Adrienne GodBold, and dynamic scorer, Karisma Penn. This is a team with a short bench and they do have to worry about foul trouble with their top players. Karisma Penn leads team in points (19.4 ppg), rebounds (9.9 rpg), steals (2.9 spg) and blocks (2.2 bpg). The Illini have four players that average more than 10 points per game; Penn, GodBold (17.3), Ivory Crawford (12.3) and Moore (11.9) and lead the Big Ten in steals with nearly 13 per game. They like to get out in transition, but struggle getting back in transition at times.

No. 7 Seed - Iowa Hawkeyes (19-11, 8-8 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 37; Strength of Schedule - 20

Top Scorer: Morgan Johnson, 14.9 ppg
Top Rebounder: Morgan Johnson, 7.5 rpg

Iowa was a team that was in contention for a top-four seed early in the conference schedule, but the Hawkeyes went just 3-6 down the stretch and finished in the seventh spot. Morgan Johnson has led the way all season for the Hawkeyes, planting herself in the paint and delivering. The senior averages 14.9 points - without a three point attempt this season - and pulls down 7.5 rebounds , while swatting 58 shots on the season. Point guard Samantha Logic leads the conference with 6.6 assists per game (198 in 30 games), while Melissa Dixon is a contender for Sixth Player of the Year at nearly 10 points per game off the bench. In conference play, Iowa owned an average margin of victory of just one point, scoring 65.1 points and allowing 64.1 points in 16 games.

No. 8 Seed - Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-12, 7-9 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 68; Strength of Schedule - 44
Top Scorer: Rachel Banham, 21.0 ppg
Top Rebounder: Micaëlla Riché, 7.5 rpg

It really all boils down to it, Minnesota wants to outscore you and your success hinges on how well you can contain Rachel Banham, the Big Ten's leading scorer. Just a sophomore, Banham leads the team with 21.0 points per game, 122 assists and 60 steals, while putting up over 500 shots this season. Micaëlla Riché has been a solid option inside for the Gophers down the stretch, scoring 24 vs. Penn State and 17 vs. Indiana in the final two games of the regular season, and leads the team on the board with over seven rebounds a game. The Gophers have been to the free throw line over 500 times this season and make over 75 percent of their attempts. A wildcard for Minnesota is Sari Noga, a shooter that can be lethal when she has the hot hand, who's 68 field goals include 50 three pointers.

No. 9 Seed - Ohio State Buckeyes (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 61; Strength of Schedule - 41

Top Scorer: Tayler Hill, 20.9 ppg
Top Rebounder: Ashley Adams, 7.0 rpg

It was a rough start to the conference slate for the Buckeyes, losing seven of their first eight games and  allowing 70 points per game, but Ohio State are playing their best basketball down the stretch, winning six of their last eight games, while not allowing more than 60 points in any of those games. Senior Tayler Hill is one of the top scorers in the country at 20.9 points per game to go along with nearly three assists per game. Ashley Adams has been a steady contributor inside with 9.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while blocking 31 shots on the year. Ohio State has allowed a shade over 63 points per game, while scoring 62.8 points a contest, but only five of their conference games have been decided by six or fewer points, with only one ending with a victory.

No. 10 Seed - Northwestern Wildcats (13-16, 5-11 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 122; Strength of Schedule - 208
Top Scorer: Kendall Hackney, 13.8 ppg
Top Rebounder: Dannielle Diamant, 7.6 rpg

The Wildcats own a very unique lineup with four post players and one guard making up the starting five for most of the year. The top four scorers on the team are in the post, but they do have forwards that can step out and shoot the three. A little added motivation for Northwestern is the fact that they are playing the tournament just 30 minutes from their campus in the Sears Center. Kendall Hackney leads a trio of players that average over 10 points a game, scoring 13.8, and adds nearly six rebounds per contest. Karly Roser is the lone guard in the starting rotation and has handed out 182 assists, but has committed 146 turnovers, to go along with nine points a game.

No. 11 Seed - Wisconsin Badgers (11-18, 3-13 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 128; Strength of Schedule - 31
Top Scorer: Morgan Paige, 16.1 ppg
Top Rebounder: Cassie Rochel, 9.2 rpg

The Badgers have been offensively challenged all season, especially in Big Ten play where they average only 54.4 points per game. Wisconsin has topped the 60-point mark only four times in Big Ten play, but has done a nice job of keeping games close in conference. Eight of the team's 13 losses in the Big Ten have come by less than 10 points, including a pair of two-point setbacks late in the year. Turnovers have been a problem for Wisconsin, averaging 18.3 per game, and the lack of an outside threat has hurt, as well, with the team connecting on just 28 percent of their three-point attempts. A tournament format doesn't play into the Badgers hand, either, with head coach Bobbie Kelsey playing just nine players all season.

No. 12 Seed - Indiana Hoosiers (11-18, 2-14 Big Ten)
AP Ranking - NR; RPI - 184; Strength of Schedule - 66
Top Scorer: Aulani Sinclair, 15.9 ppg
Top Rebounder: Milika Taufa, 5.8 rpg

After starting the season 9-4, the Hoosiers have won only twice since the calendar turned to 2013. A minus-14 scoring margin in Big Ten games does not bode well for Indiana who has two main options on the offensive end. Seniors Aulani Sinclair and Jasmine McGhee have put up 49 percent of the shots for IU this season (785-of-1602) and no other Hoosier player has attempted 200 shots. Sinclair does connect on 40 percent of her shots and has added 55 assists, 20 blocks and 27 steals to her 15.9 points per game. However, even with the point differential the Hoosiers have only given up 70 or more points five times in Big Ten play and allow 65.2 points per game in conference play.

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