Here’s a look at how the Big Ten stacks up entering Thursday’s league openers, starting with the four preseason favorites and ranking the rest by their nonconference records this season:
All-America guard Lexie Brown left the program, but the No. 6 Terps lead the nation in scoring, averaging 89.1 points per game, behind a potent offense headed by guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and center Brionna Jones. Went undefeated in the Big Ten last season.
Ohio State (8-3)
Big Ten player of the year Kelsey Mitchell is surrounded by a deep supporting cast for the ninth-ranked Buckeyes, whose nonconference losses came to top-ranked UConn, No. 2 South Carolina and No. 3 Notre Dame.
Michigan State (9-2)
Forward Aerial Powers and guard Tori Jankoska ran the show for the injury-riddled Spartans last season; while No. 24 MSU has more depth this year, those two still are combining for almost 36 points per game.
After earning their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1997, the No. 14 Wildcats returned their top five scorers — including Hopkins product Nia Coffey — and began the season with 10 consecutive victories.
The Hawkeyes lost three starters from last year and have a tough stretch to start the Big Ten season, but guard Ally Disterhoft is averaging 17.3 points per game, and center Chase Coley of Minneapolis is blossoming as a sophomore.
Star guard Rachel Theriot is back after an ankle injury cut last season short, and 6-4 freshman Jess Shepard — one of the top recruits in the nation — has adapted quickly to give the Huskers a strong inside presence.
The Boilermakers’ outstanding defense is surrendering 51.6 points per game, best in the Big Ten, while guard April Wilson heads a balanced offense.
The defense remains strong, allowing 52.1 points per game, and guards Kahleah Copper and Tyler Scaife provide a strong scoring punch.
The Gophers boast one of the league’s top players in Rachel Banham, who directs a guard-heavy lineup that loves to shoot three-pointers.
6-5 freshman center Hallie Thome immediately stepped into the starting lineup and has bolstered the inside game for a hot-shooting team.
Coach Teri Moren redesigned the Hoosiers’ offense during the offseason to highlight forward Amanda Cahill, who is delivering 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
The Illini return two starters and hope to quickly integrate five newcomers as they try to move on from a difficult year, which included allegations of racial hostility by coaches.
Penn State (5-6)
The Lady Lions staggered to a 6-24 record last season, worst in the Big Ten, and a young lineup has struggled with consistency.
It’s likely to be a tough year for the Badgers, who rank at or near the bottom of many league categories.