Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
Penn State's Lady Lions have been awesome this year, and are one of the best teams in the country. No, seriously!
Calling the Penn State women's hoops team the best basketball team on campus probably is a stretch. But when you remember that the guy's team kinda sucks, and the Lady Lions are really good, the gap between the two teams probably isn't too large.
You know what? You should know how they did during their out of conference portion of the season. The team's awesome and you misogynist jerks don't give them the respect that they deserve. For that reason, the following is a recap of the Lady Lion's season so far. Consider this the Title IX of BSD pieces.
OUT OF CONFERENCE WINS: Howard (72-61), @ #16 Texas A&M (63-58), Lafayette (75-34), Detroit (80-72, neutral site), @ Cal State Northridge (85-73), Farleigh Dickinson (101-44), Georgetown (97-74), Virginia Tech (60-41), South Dakota State (60-50), NJIT (82-37)
OUT OF CONFERENCE LOSSES: @ Miami (69-65), @ #2 UConn (67-52)
NUMBERZZ!~!~!!!~!!~!!: At 74.3 points per game, Penn State has the Big 10's best scoring offense. The team's leading scorer is junior guard Maggie Lucas, who is putting up 20.9 a game, good for 1st in the Big Ten (or 2nd, depending on who you ask) and 16th in the NCAA. Lucas is essentially a female Steve Nash, as she is shooting 48.5% from the field, 52.6% from three and 88.2% from the charity stripe. For you stat nerds, her true shooting percentage is 64.9% and her effective FG% is 60.2%. Senior guard Alex Bentley is the only other Lady Lion putting up double figures at 12.4 per contest, good for 20th in the conference.
In other statistics, Bentley has 4 steals per game, which is the most of anyone in the Big Ten. Her 48 steals over the entire season would be 2nd in the NCAA, but the NCAA thinks she only has 40 steals for some reason. Seriously. Effing Emmert.
The team's 44.1 rebounds per game are good for 1st in the conference, anchored by senior center Nikki Greene's 7.8 boards a night. Among Big Ten teams, the Nits are ranked in the top five of: Scoring Offense, Scoring Margin, Free Throw Percentage, Field Goal Percentage Defense, 3-Point Field Goal Percentage, Rebounding Offense, Rebounding Margin, Blocked Shots, Steals, Turnover Margin and Offensive and Defensive Rebounds and Rebound Percentage. Most importantly, PSU is the 10th ranked team in 'Merica, which is the best among teams in the Big Ten.
TEAM AWARDS: Lucas is the team's MVP. Duh. She's the team's best player and the reason that they're one of the best teams in the country. Take her off the team, and the Lady Lions would probably be somewhere in the "meh" to "good, not great" range. In fact, you can argue that Lucas is a potential first team All-American and the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year.
The team's defensive MVP has been Bentley. *INSERT HORRIBLE CHRIS BERMAN JOKE ABOUT BENTLEY BEING A CADILLAC HERE* I touched on Bentley's Assassin's Creed-esque ability to pickpocket players, but she is somehow 3rd on the team in defensive rebounds despite being the team's shortest player at 5'7".
The team's unsung hero was going to go to redshirt junior guard Dara Taylor, the team's 3rd guard and the person who gives Lucas/Bentley rest when they need it without having the team's play drop off too much, but the bigs need some love as well. For that reason, it's going to junior forward Ariel Edwards. Edwards is the low post version of Taylor: she comes off the bench to give Greene and redshirt senior forward Mia Nickson breaks, and has even played more minutes this season than Nickson. Despite coming off the bench, Edwards is 3rd on the team in scoring and 5th in rebounds.
CONFERENCE PREVIEW: The Big Ten is one of three conferences in the country where every team has a record above .500. Eight teams have at least 10 wins, six teams received votes in the last AP poll and three teams (PSU, Purdue and #NEBRASKETBALL) are ranked in the top 25. Long story short, the Lady Lions aren't going to be able to walk to a Big Ten regular season championship.
HOWEVAH, Penn State has the distinct advantage of being the best team in the conference. They are the only team ranked in the top 10, they boast the best point differential in the conference, they have been tested against arguably the best team in the country in UConn and they have, for my money, the Big Ten's best player in Lucas.
The key games, naturally, are the ones against other ranked teams. Lucky for them, their only game against Purdue is in Happy Vally, but they end their season in Lincoln against #NEBRASKETBALL in a game that could decide the conference champions. The team also has a three game stretch of at Michigan, home against Minnesota, at Ohio State. The combined record of those three teams at the time I wrote this: 32-8. Despite this, the team should be fine.
As BSD's resident Lady Lions expert (somehow), I think I can say with about 73 percent confidence that Penn State should win the Big Ten. As for the tournament, this is a team that can make the Final Four. Can they beat teams like UConn, Baylor and Stanford to potentially win a title? I don't think so. But like every hoops fan knows, ANYTHING IS POSSIBAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL.