Tourney Time

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The first game of the Women’s Big Ten Tournament gets underway here at Conseco Fieldhouse, with Michigan squaring off against Penn State. We’ll see if Wolverine coach Kevin Borseth’s crazy rant last week after a close home loss to Wisconsin spurs on his troops.

The Hoosiers will meet Northwestern after the first game, a team they’ve already beat twice by a combined score of 158-111.

“At this time of the season, it’s not about other teams. It’s about your program,” said Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack in Wednesday’s practice. “You do what you do, and you’ve got to do what you do real well.”

Hoosier senor guard Nikki Smith desperately wants to make it all the way to Sunday’s championship game, a path that will include Purdue and possibly league co-champ Iowa. It’s her last go-around with the team, and she is sure that this year’s squad has the best chance in her four years to pull off the feat, something it hasn’t done since 2002. And she’d love to make that NCAA bracket.

“It makes it more exciting because there’s not just one team that you think will just dominate the whole entire tournament,” Smith said. “I think it’s really up in the air this year.”

Smith, from Sylvania, Ohio, said she grew up around Michigan’s Jessica Minnfield, a junior from Toledo that starts at point guard. Though the two remain close, they haven’t talked since Indiana beat the Wolverines on Feb. 17, Think Pink Day at Assembly Hall. Not because the Hoosiers won, but because at this time of year, Smith said, you stick with your own teammates.

As for the six Hoosier freshmen experiencing the conference tourney for the first time, Smith as the team’s lone senior, had this to say about guidance and prepping them for the scene:

“It’s just something that you can’t really prepare them for unless they experience it themselves.”