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Clark shines, Hillmon dominates: Big Ten Women rolling into Sweet 16, with 3 in action today

Iowa rolls Kentucky and Michigan storms back on Tennessee—can Maryland, Indiana, and Northwestern join them in the Sweet 16 today?


No qualifying or comparing it—the Big Ten is rolling in women’s basketball.

For a conference that had a lot of dead weight at the bottom with programs like Wisconsin and Illinois scuffling, along with a second-tier of Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, tourney-ineligible Ohio State, and Northwestern beating each other up, we’re seeing the fruits of that competition in March.

Two lower-seeded Big Ten clubs have already booked their place in the Sweet 16, and two more should join them today, with a third having a puncher’s chance against

Tuesday Recaps

[5] Iowa Hawkeyes 86, [4] Kentucky Wildcats 72

Stew: Caitlin Clark is good at putting the basketball through the hoop. She’s also good at dribbling the basketball and passing the basketball. These are 3 of the essential skills in determining overall skill at the sport of basketball. Since she is good at all of these, she is overall a very good player of basketball.

Having good basketball players is a key component of having a good basketball team. Since the University of Iowa Hawkeyes women’s intercollegiate basketball team has Caitlyn Clark, who we’ve previously established is a good overall player, the university of Iowa women’s inter-collegiate basketball team is good.

Good basketball teams win basketball games. The University of Iowa Hawkeyes women’s intercollegiate basketball team won their game against the University of Kentucky Wildcats women’s intercollegiate basketball team. Since we’ve established that the University of Iowa Hawkeyes women’s intercollegiate basketball team is a good basketball team, this makes sense.

Clark out scored Kentucky’s entire team at halftime. Kentucky looked woefully unprepared for how to deal with Clark and with her profile being raised she stepped up in a major way.

MNW: Uh...thanks, Stew?

I am still not sure what Kentucky was doing for most of this game. Woulda thunk Kentucky could’ve watched ANY film on Iowa and seen they need to be an aggressive, in-the-passing-lanes defense to beat them. There was one play where Caitlin Clark just dribbled from the top of the key a little to her right, bounce-passed in to Monika Czinano, and watched the forward go up for an easy layup. Why was Kentucky allowing Iowa to just sit in their offense and run plays? Why was Clark just being defended straight up?

This game was a great illustration of why Iowa’s been so successful: if you want to just match up with them and play ball, they have a pair of top-tier players (importantly, one each on the outside and inside) in Clark and Czinano who are so good scoring. You have to either have a lockdown defense (a la a Northwestern) that scrambles that approach or an offense that is either (1) on fire a la Michigan State or (2) just that much better a la Maryland or Indiana.

Up next: vs. #1 UConn (time, TV TBD)

[6] Michigan Wolverines 70, [3] Tennessee Volunteers 55

MNW: The second quarter of this game was one of the uglier periods of basketball I’ve seen this season, and I’m a Northwestern fan...but a little 5-0 run in the last minute gave the Wolverines a 9-point advantage into the half. Then, Leigha Brown and Naz Hillmon took over, scoring the Wolverines’ first 10 points of the third quarter on a 12-2 run that opened up a lead the Lady Vols wouldn’t get close to touching.

With Michigan, you know Hillmon is going to dominate inside—a cool 19 points and 15 boards would show that, I think—but Hailey Brown’s 4/6 shooting from deep and Leigha Brown’s 11/11 day at the line helped the Wolverines cruise here. Not the prettiest basketball ever—Tennessee shot 14% from deep, Michigan 30%, and the two teams combined for 31 offensive rebounds, but Michigan took better care of the basketball (13 assists, 13 steals) and that’ll be enough.

Up next: vs. #2 Baylor (time, TV TBD)

Wednesday Previews

[2] Maryland Terrapins vs. [7] Alabama Crimson Tide

12pm | ESPN2 | MD -15.5 | O/U 161.5
Hemisfair Region: Bill Greehey Arena

DJ Carver: The flipped version of the men’s game, literally. Maryland will take on 7 seed Alabama and look to repeat what they did on Monday. The nations top scoring offense will try to end things early and get into the bench.

The most surprising thing from Monday though was prized freshman Angel Reese made an appearance in the fourth quarter coming back from her fractured foot. If she can knock the rust off and start contributing much more Maryland could be even more dangerous.

[4] Indiana Hoosiers vs. [12] Belmont Bruins

4pm | ESPNU | IU -12.5 | O/U 123.5
Mercado Region: Bill Greehey Arena

MNW: The Bruins were, briefly, the surprise of the tournament until 13-seed Wright State knocked off Arkansas—that’s not to say their win over Gonzaga is any less impressive, of course. The Hoosiers will need to be on the lookout for freshman guard Destinee Wells, who spotted up from any-damn-where she wanted against the Bulldogs and can shoot the three.

But I like the Hoosiers’ odds if Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger are able to dominate with their size inside. Belmont packed the paint against a bigger Gonzaga club, but they are liable to be broken down by stronger frontcourt play.

[7] Northwestern Wildcats vs. [2] Louisville Cardinals

4pm | ESPN2 | Lhvl -7 | O/U 125.5
Alamo Region: Alamodome

MNW: Roll it out and play. Get the Blizzard D scrambling this game, get Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton hot from deep, and let’s get weird.

There’s something almost soothing about seeing that an opposing team’s leading scorer is 5’6”. Louisville’s Dana Evans is still a world-beater and averaging 20 ppg. In fact, the three top scorers for the Cards are their backcourt—and I’ll take my chances with the Blizzard defense making Louisville’s life a little rougher on the outside. No sharpshooters from deep—Evans, Hailey Van Lith (a 5’7” frosh) and Kianna Smith (a 6’0” guard) all shoot under 45% from the field and 40% from deep—give the ‘Cats a chance if they can throw Louisville out of their offensive rhythm.

Unfortunately, it’s a terrifying frontcourt that I think dooms the ‘Cats: 6’3” Olivia Cochran and 6’5” Elizabeth Dixon are going to be a nightmare for Northwestern’s bigs, who struggled to hold down UCF on the offensive glass and nearly let the Citronauts back into it.

Northwestern can take care of the ball, and Louisville doesn’t turn over opponents at a high clip—if Burton gets back on track, and even if Pulliam isn’t dropping 25, I’ll give the ‘Cats a shot here.

Here’s your open thread for the day of the NCAA Women’s Tournament! If you subscribe to FloSports, too, (1) what is wrong with you, and (2) the CBI Championship is tonight in Dayton Beach. Coastal Carolina takes on Pepperdine.