Indiana tops Big Ten women’s basketball preseason rankings

ROSEMONT, Ill. —Indiana University was chosen as the 2020-21 preseason Big Ten women’s basketball favorite by both the conference’s 14 head coaches and a select media panel, the conference office announced Wednesday.

Michigan’s Naz Hillmon and Rutgers’ Arella Guirantes shared 2020-21 Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year honors in the coaches’ balloting, while Northwestern’s Lindsey Pulliam was voted Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year by the media.

Hillmon, Guirantes and Pulliam joined Indiana’s Grace Berger and Ali Patberg, Iowa’s Monika Czinano, Maryland’s Ashley Owusu, Michigan State’s Nia Clouden, Northwestern’s Veronica Burton and Ohio State’s Dorka Juhász garnered Preseason All-Big Ten recognition from the coaches and the media. Guirantes and Pulliam were selected unanimously by both groups while Hillmon and Juhász were chosen unanimously by the coaches.

Hillmon, a junior forward from Cleveland, Ohio, is a two-time first-team All-Big Ten honoree who previously had been chosen as the 2019 Big Ten Co-Freshman and Sixth Player of the Year. Last year, she ranked among the top five in the conference in scoring (17.4 points per game), rebounding (8.7 rebounds per game) and field-goal percentage (.567) while scoring in double figures 28 times (including 14 20-point games) and posting 11 double-doubles.

Guirantes, a fifth-year senior guard from Bellport, New York, was a first-team All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America selection last year who led the Big Ten in scoring and ranked ninth nationally at 20.6 points per game. Overall, she ranked among the top 15 in the conference in eight statistical categories and set a Rutgers single-season record with 171 made free throws.

Pulliam, a senior guard from Silver Spring, Maryland, also has twice earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades and was an honorable mention All-American last season. She has ranked among the top five in the Big Ten in scoring the past two years, including a career-high 18.8 points per game in 2019-20.

The top choice in the preseason team rankings by both the coaches and media, Indiana brings back four starters and nine letter winners, including first-team all-conference honorees Berger and Patberg, from last year’s team that went 24-8, setting a school record for wins in a season, and finished fourth in the Big Ten with a 13-5 record. The Hoosiers advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2006 and were No. 14 in the final NCAA RPI report released on March 13, putting them in position to be a top-four seed and early-round host site for the NCAA Tournament, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indiana was one of five Big Ten schools appearing in the 2020-21 preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll released Tuesday, with the Hoosiers checking in at No. 16.

Defending Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion Maryland was the No. 2 selection in the preseason balloting of the conference’s coaches and third in the media panel voting. The Terrapins went 28-4 overall last season and were the No. 4 overall seed in the final NCAA Committee regular-season seed reveal, making them a prime candidate to be a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament. Maryland also earned a share of last year’s conference regular-season title with a 16-2 record. The Terrapins, who were 12th in the preseason AP poll, have four letter winners returning this season, led by Owusu, who was the Jim and Kitty Delany Most Outstanding Player of the 2020 Big Ten Tournament.

Northwestern was the runner-up in this year’s Big Ten preseason rankings according to the media and was fourth in the coaches’ survey. The Wildcats claimed a share of their first Big Ten title in 30 years, and second in program history, last spring with a 16-2 conference record, and they set a school record for wins in a season with a 26-4 mark. Northwestern was also the No. 9 overall seed in the final NCAA Committee regular-season seed reveal, positioning the Wildcats for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Led by Pulliam and Burton, Northwestern, ranked No. 17 in the preseason AP poll, has three starters and 10 letter winners returning this season.

Michigan earned the No. 3 spot in the Big Ten coaches’ preseason balloting and was fourth in the media’s poll, as the Wolverines build off last year’s 21-11 record and a second consecutive trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. A projected No. 8 seed for last year’s NCAA Tournament, Michigan, which was ranked No. 25 in the preseason AP poll, has four starters and nine letter winners returning this season, highlighted by Hillmon and 2019-20 second-team all-Big Ten guard Amy Dilk.

Ohio State was selected to finish fifth in the conference by both the Big Ten coaches and media after a strong second-half surge last season lifted the Buckeyes into the Big Ten Tournament title game and a projected No. 6 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Ranked 20th in the preseason AP poll, Ohio State will have all five starters, including Juhász, back from that 21-12 squad.

The 2020-21 Preseason All-Big Ten Teams and rankings are as follows (unanimous selections listed in ALL CAPS):

 

2020-21 COACHES BIG TEN PRESEASON RANKINGS

  1. Indiana
  2. Maryland
  3. Michigan
  4. Northwestern
  5. Ohio State

 

2020-21 COACHES PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM

  • Grace Berger, Jr., G, Indiana
  • Ali Patberg, Sr., G, Indiana
  • Monika Czinano, Jr., F/C, Iowa
  • Ashley Owusu, So., G, Maryland
  • NAZ HILLMON, Jr., F, Michigan
  • Nia Clouden, Jr., G, Michigan State
  • Veronica Burton, Jr., G, Northwestern
  • LINDSEY PULLIAM, Sr., G, Northwestern
  • DORKA JUHÁSZ, Jr., F, Ohio State
  • ARELLA GUIRANTES, Sr., G, Rutgers

 

2020-21 COACHES BIG TEN CO-PRESEASON PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

  • Naz Hillmon, Jr., F, Michigan
  • Arella Guirantes, Sr., G, Rutgers

 

2020-21 MEDIA BIG TEN PRESEASON RANKINGS

  1. Indiana
  2. Northwestern
  3. Maryland
  4. Michigan
  5. Ohio State

 

2020-21 MEDIA PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM

  • Grace Berger, Jr., G, Indiana
  • Ali Patberg, Sr., G, Indiana
  • Monika Czinano, Jr., F/C, Iowa
  • Ashley Owusu, So., G, Maryland
  • Naz Hillmon, Jr., F, Michigan
  • Nia Clouden, Jr., G, Michigan State
  • Veronica Burton, Jr., G, Northwestern
  • LINDSEY PULLIAM, Sr., G, Northwestern
  • Dorka Juhász, Jr., F, Ohio State
  • ARELLA GUIRANTES, Sr., G, Rutgers

 

2020-21 MEDIA BIG TEN PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Lindsey Pulliam, Sr., G, Northwestern

 

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