It’s been seven years since the Big Ten team reached the Final Four and more than two decades since the conference had a national champion in women’s basketball.
With a four-team conference in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row, those streaks may soon be coming to an end.
Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State and Maryland are all playing in the regional semifinals this weekend — the ACC matches for most teams left in the NCAA Tournament.
All four coaches credit the rigors of the conference as one of the main reasons for the success they have had on the biggest stage of the game so far.
Indiana coach Teri Moren said, “I think the biggest thing is that we prepare each other for these moments.” “It’s so cool and so competitive that we are ready for these games. The Big Ten prepares us for all these opponents we’re seeing right now.”
Indiana reached the regional finals last season and most of its team came back from that run. The Hoosiers face Yukon at Sweet 16 on Saturday.
Maryland, which faces Stanford on Friday, was the last team in the Big Ten to reach the Final Four in 2014. Coach Brenda Friese knows how important it can be to make it to the regionals before this.
“You have to have that experience to get into the Sweet 16 and get to the Elite Eight like Indiana last year,” Frieze said. “Your roster has to get that experience. It’s a good thing that there are now four back-to-back teams making it to the Sweet 16. The teams are getting a ton of experience to understand these rounds and how much. Its difficult. “
Michigan, which faces South Dakota on Saturday, is playing in its second straight Sweet 16, having never made it before.
“I’ve said this since I’ve been here, the quote that Geno (Aurimma) gave me 20 years ago. It’s easy to get there, the hard part is to be there,” Wolverines coach Kim Barnes said. You have a league that has four teams back-to-back in Sweet 16, so it really speaks to you to be there and come.”
All the coaches are wishing each other success. As other Big Ten schools moved on, Frieze tweeted his excitement for them.
“Brenda has been the real champion of this and is 100% correct,” said Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff. “Many other leagues have TV networks that trumpet their teams. We have to preach the same way as coaches about how good we are. We know how good we are. Everyone knows that too.”
Sixth seed Bucky will face Texas on Friday
With four women’s teams progressing to Sweet 16 and with some Big Ten men’s teams still playing, it will be a busy next few days for Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. He plans to try to engage in as many games as possible while watching others on his phone.
They believe that their conference is really close to breaking their national semi-final drought.
“We are at the forefront of regularly placing teams in the last four and winning national championships,” Warren said in a phone interview from the airport. “I look forward to seeing him go into the last four and look forward to the day when I will see the National Championship trophy handed over to him.”
Warren also made changes to the conference office this season, appointing Megan Kahn as the conference’s vice president of women’s basketball in November.
“This showed the true commitment of our commissioner, Kevin Warren, who is passionate about women’s hoops,” Moran said. “It’s a big deal to see him hire her and really make it a special place for women’s basketball.”
Warren said that creating that position was one of his top goals when he was hired.
“I had a list of transition initiatives and that was the top one,” he said. “The first year we had to deal with COVID, so it got delayed.”
He has also spent the last two years developing relationships with several coaches and players. He went to all-female sports in conference tournaments and recited them consistently before and after the games.
“They know I’m there. They know I can’t be in two places at once or I won’t be there,” he said. “I’ll see Indiana this weekend. Hopefully all four of our teams win, so I can figure out where to go.
More AP Women’s College Basketball: More