During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the spring season for each conference. Check out all of the previews here.
Today, we look at the Big Ten:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: Northwestern
• Player to watch: Liz Nagel, Michigan State
• Freshman to watch: Stephanie Miller, Illinois
• Conference championship: April 25-27, French Lick (Ind.)
• Past champions (since 2009): Northwestern/Purdue (2013), Michigan State (2011), Michigan State (2012), Purdue (2010), Purdue (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- Northwestern (No. 20): It was a steady fall effort for Northwestern (three top 5s in four starts) but the Wildcats still are missing a go-to scorer to take them to the next level. A good bet for that role? Freshman Kacie Komoto.
- Michigan State (No. 24): The Spartans began the season with a win at their own Mary Fossum Invitational, but must perform better on the road. They went ninth, T-13, T-6 away from home. Liz Nagel’s leadership has been key for Michigan State, especially in the absence of Caroline Powers, who graduated in the spring.
- Ohio State (No. 33): A successful season that included a runner-up finish at the Mary Fossum and a fourth-place finish at the Diane Thomas Invitational. Freshman Jessica Porvasnik stepped up as a leader in the fall.
- Wisconsin (No. 38): After being one of the most compelling stories of the 2012-13 offseason, the Badgers came back this fall to finish inside the top 10 in all four starts. Most notably, Wisconsin won the Lady Paladin Invitational while setting a new 54-hole school record. Another postseason appearance seems likely.
- Illinois (No. 39): Won its own Diane Thomason Invitational, finished runner-up twice, and also garnered a third- and fifth-place finish in the fall. Freshman Stephanie Miller made a big impact.
- Minnesota (No. 61): The highlight of the season was the Golden Gophers’ third-place finish in their own Minnesota Invitational. The potential is there for this experienced, international squad.
- Purdue (No. 67): With a short roster, Purdue struggled in the big events. Will need depth to tackle tougher spring schedule. Aurora Kan has stepped into the leadership role.
- Penn State (No. 72): The Cougar Classic and Mercedes Benz Intercollegiate offered good competition for the Nittany Lions, but both resulted in 13th-place finishes. Highlight of the fall was a third-place finish at Penn State’s own Nittany Lion Invitational. This team will play a difficult spring schedule.
- Nebraska (No. 74): Started the fall by winning the Chip-N Club Invitational. A solid threesome in Katelyn Wright, Steffi Neisen and Cassie Deeg.
- Iowa (No. 94): Started with a fourth-place finish at the Chip-N Club Invitational but that was the high point of the season. Hurricane Invitationala nd Dallas Athletic Club Invitatioal in the spring will provide good run-up to Big Ten Championship.
- Michigan (No. 106): In first season under new head coach Jan Dowling, Michigan cracked the top 10 twice (two ninth-place finishes). Leadership comes from freshman Grace Choi.
- Indiana (No. 118): A lackluster fall for Indiana, which finished second at its home opener but didn’t crack the top 10 again. The Hoosiers need a leader in the spring, and that likely will be Elizabeth Tong.
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LANCE RINGLER’S TAKE
In the history of Big Ten women’s golf, the 2014 championship may have more teams with a legit chance to win than we have ever seen. In recent past you could easily pin Purdue or Michigan State and even Ohio State as the clear favorites, but not this year. You can easily go with four teams and possibly five with a legit chance of being one to consider come late April.