Big Ten: The State of the Union

By Jessica Garrison - October 29, 2006

The ACC was the nation’s Marcia Brady last year, while other conferences crowed for respect. The Big Ten among them, without a Final Four team for the first time in recent memory.

Who is the conference’s best chance to break into the Final Four this year?

“When you look at the conference you have to go with the incumbent Ohio State, but I think that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for us and others as well,” Illinois head coach Theresa Grentz said.

Ohio State definitely got the vote of confidence from the pollsters, within the conference as well as from the nation. They are the Big Ten’s only top ten team in the AP and Coaches’ polls, a number the conference hopes to improve upon.

“Every year we talk about scheduling as a conference in order to keep us in the top four in the country,” Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. “What tends to affect our RPI most, though, is when we beat ourselves up in conference games which results in a lower RPI.”

Indiana head coach Felisha Legette-Jack took a more candid tack: “"We've got to play OSU a couple of times, so I hope those polls are at least a little bit wrong,” she said.

Still, Legette-Jack took the business of improving the Big Ten’s already-elite reputation to the next level upon her own squad.

“Michigan State, Purdue and OSU are holding down the fort,” she said. “The people at the bottom like us, we’ve got to do a better job of winning basketball games. The cats at the top, they’re doing all they can do.”

As for the cats at the top, there’s a sense of perspective about how much hand-wringing is worthwhile in November. Michigan State coach McCallie, for one, was crystal clear about how much stock she places in preseason predictions: “None. It’s all about March.”

Posted by Jessica Garrison at 02:23 PM on October 29, 2006

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