The Caitlin Clark Experience: Big Ten women’s basketball tournament storylines

For the first time in the history of the event, the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament has announced a sellout for every session.

That’s the impact of superstar Caitlin Clark.

Nearly 110,000 fans are expected to attend, and while most of them will have their own rooting interests in mind, Clark is undoubtedly at the epicenter of everybody’s experience. She will likely alter the economy in the Twin Cities this week in the same way international pop star Taylor Swift did this summer.

The event itself will take place Wednesday through Sunday at Target Center in Minneapolis. Here are some storylines to watch:

How will Caitlin Clark perform?

All eyes will be on Clark everywhere she goes this week. She has to perform. Not that there’s any reason to think she won’t. Not only has Clark sold out virtually every building she has played in this season, she has consistently been the best player on the court.

The most recent example of that came last weekend when Clark put up 35 points on national television to become the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer. She passed the legendary Pete Maravich for the crown and now has an astounding 3,685 points for her career. She lives for the big moments.

That sets the stage for this week.

Though it’s likely that Clark will put on a show with her scoring prowess, she would love nothing more than to lead No. 2 seed Iowa (26-4, 15-3 Big Ten) to another Big Ten tournament championship. The first game in that quest will come in a quarterfinal matchup on Friday night against either No. 7 seed Penn State or No. 10 seed Wisconsin.

Stillwater native Sara Scalia returns

This will be a homecoming for Stillwater native Sara Scalia.

After committing to Minnesota out of high school, Scalia left the hometown program, transferring to Indiana to chase her hoop dreams of playing for a top team in the nation. She came off the bench last season, and after working on her craft, has established herself as a starter this season.

It has been an understatement to call Scalia a sharpshooter. She is averaging 16.3 points this season while shooting a career-high 43.9 percent on 3-point attempts.

As for No. 3 seed Indiana (24-4, 15-3 Big Ten), if the Hoosiers are going to make a run at the Big Ten title, it is going to be with Scalia helping lead the charge alongside teammate Mackenzie Holmes.

Ohio State as top seed

The fan favorite this week will be Iowa. The actual favorite might be Ohio State.

Led by star guard Jacy Sheldon, a balanced attack on offense and a ferocious demeanor on defense, No. 1 seed Ohio State (25-4, 16-2 Big Ten) will be a force to be reckoned with this week. There is no weakness to be found on the roster. There isn’t much to be said other than that.

If Ohio State can find a way to get rolling, there is a good chance they will stop Iowa from winning another Big Ten crown.

Will the Gophers fight back?

There was a time this season that it looked like Minnesota might flirt with a NCAA tournament bid.

Then star guard Mara Braun went down, and everything fell apart.

In fact, since losing Braun to a foot injury a little more than a month ago, Minnesota has won just one game. It has gotten extremely grim with losses in 10 of 11 games, including a recent 90-34 defeat at the hands of Penn State.

The run will end for No. 11 seed Minnesota (15-14, 5-13 Big Ten) on Wednesday night if it can’t beat No. 14 seed Rutgers in the first round.

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