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Big Ten Women’s Basketball Bracketology: Caitlin Clark, Iowa back on top

What a wild week the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament gave us.

Three of the top four seeds lost in their first game. Two teams solidified themselves in the NCAA Tournament field, while another will have to sweat it out. And Caitlin Clark and Iowa took home a third Big Ten Tournament championship in as many years.

It was not a simple task for the Hawkeyes, though. Clark got off to a slow start in the final, and Iowa trailed Nebraska by 11 at halftime. Clark scored 30 of her 34 after the break, but it still took Logan Nissley missing a baseline jumper just to get to overtime. The Cornhuskers continued to give the Hawkeyes everything they could handle, but Clark’s killer 3-pointer with 51 seconds left gave Iowa the lead for good.

The results in Minneapolis will play a big role in the rankings you see below. We now have a week to sit with these last statements before Selection Sunday, so they will loom large. Here is a look at how things could break down.

Iowa: 1-seed

As much as this team is the Caitlin Clark Show, Sunday showed the importance of Hannah Stuelke. The Hawkeyes’ lone starting big contributed 25 points and nine rebounds Sunday, and her team needed every one of them. Iowa will play bigger teams if they accomplish what they want to in the NCAA Tournament, so it is crucial for Stuelke to hold her own, like she did on Sunday.

RELATED: Caitlin Clark Record Tracker: Points, assists, rebounds and award milestones for Iowa superstar

Ohio State: 2-seed

Let’s call a spade a spade: The Buckeyes’ 82-61 quarterfinal loss to Maryland was not their finest moment. Head coach Kevin McGuff called his team out for playing like a team that knew it was locked into a high seed for the NCAA Tournament. Two straight losses to close will almost definitely knock them out of 1-seed contention. However, Ohio State remains as talented as any team in the country and should not be written out of the championship conversation.

Indiana: 4-seed

Another one-and-done in the Big Ten Tournament is concerning for the Hoosiers, but not nearly as big a worry as Mackenzie Holmes’ left knee. Holmes injured it in the regular-season finale against Illinois, exactly a year after the injury to the same knee that was part of Indiana’s disappointing 2023 postseason. Holmes was only available for five minutes late in the Michigan game and could not stop the Wolverines’ run. If Holmes is not close to full strength in the NCAA Tournament, it’s hard to expect the Hoosiers to make a run.

Nebraska: 7-seed

The Cornhuskers came so, so close to pulling off a shocking championship run in Minneapolis. While they would certainly rather have that hardware, they will see benefits from their performance. Between soundly defeating the Spartans and coming inches from beating Iowa, Nebraska jumps a seed and goes ahead of Michigan State on the 7-line. The Cornhuskers are a tough, gritty team that will be difficult to bounce in the Big Dance.

Michigan State: 7-seed

It has been rare to see the Spartans struggle offensively like they did in putting up 20 combined points in the middle two quarters against Nebraska. With 25 points, Julia Ayrault was the only player to score in double-figures for Michigan State. The Spartans are the No. 6 scoring offense in the country, but what happens when they run into a physically tough team in the NCAA Tournament?

Maryland: 9-seed

The Terrapins’ dominant win over a top-five team in Ohio State solidified their NCAA Tournament case. Maybe they won’t make it to a single-digit seed, but it would be a travesty to leave a team that beat the Buckeyes by 21 points out of the field. Shyanne Sellers, Brinae Alexander, Jakia Brown-Turner, and Faith Masonius were brilliant in scoring all but four of Maryland’s points in that game, but they need to maintain a high level of play for the Terrapins to win – they scored 47 on 46 shots in the loss to Nebraska.

Michigan: 10-seed

The Terrapins jump the Wolverines because they had the more impressive win, but there is no discounting what Michigan did to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit and beat Indiana. Laila Phelia was fantastic, scoring 20 of her 30 in that second half, and her 21 points were the best thing Michigan had going in the loss to Iowa. Phelia has all the makings of a March hero who can lead her team to big things in the Big Dance.

Penn State: 11-seed (First Four)

At this point, it is a coin flip as to whether the Nittany Lions make the field. They did about what was expected in Minneapolis, beating Wisconsin by 24 and losing to Iowa by 33. Getting embarrassed in the last game before the tournament is not the taste you want to leave in the committee’s collective mouth, but I will give Penn State the benefit of the doubt here based on the highs they hit earlier in the season.

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