Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is a trend. And I think the trend is clear now: greatness in Big Ten women's basketball goes through Iowa City. For the third straight year, an Iowa player has been named the Big Ten Player of the Year. In 2018 and 2019 that honor went to the incomparable Megan Gustafson. This year's honoree is a woman who's gone from being a key teammate of Gustafson's to a star in her own right: Kathleen Doyle.
Doyle was an unanimous Player of the Year selection by the Big Ten coaches and media as well. Doyle's taken on a greater offensive load this season -- and she's absolutely flourished in that larger role. She's averaged 18.2 ppg overall this season (5th best in the Big Ten) and she's been even more prolific in Big Ten action (19.8 ppg). She's done that while shooting 44.6% from the floor and making 33.3% of her 3-point attempts. She also leads the Big Ten in assists with 6.4 per game overall (6.3 apg in Big Ten games) and ranks 8th in the league in assist/turnover ratio (1.7). She's 10th in the league in steals per game (1.7 per game), and even slightly better in Big Ten games (8th, 1.8 per game). Oh, and she averages 4.7 rebounds per game and makes 79% of her free throws as well, third-best in the conference. Doyle does a little bit of everything on the court and that all-around excellence is what's being deservedly recognized by the Big Ten with this honor.
None of that even gets into just how clutch she's been all season long, either. Doyle has saved her best for last in several games this season, helping Iowa turn likely losses into thrilling victories. Without her big-time performances, this season could have gone a lot differently.
There was an expectation that Iowa would take a step back this year after losing Gustafson, the best player in school history. That this might be more of a rebuilding campaign. Instead, it's turned into a reloading effort and a big part of that has been Doyle's ascension to becoming a star player.
In the first 43 years of the Iowa women's basketball program, they had four women named Player of the Year. Now they've had two women win three Player of the Year awards over the last three seasons. That's an incredible testament to the efforts of Lisa Bluder and her entire coaching staff; they've taken players who weren't the bluest of blue chip recruits (Gustafson was ranked #80 overall in ESPN's 2015 class rankings, while Doyle was ranked #97 overall in ESPN's 2016 class rankings) and developed them into some of the best players in the conference -- and the nation.
Congratulations to Kathleen Doyle, best in the Big Ten.