Iowa women's basketball has a big game today, a very challenging road game at #8 Maryland (12 PM CT, BTN), but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Caitlin Clark, whose preposterously good freshman season continues to roll on. Monday Clark was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week -- again.
Your #B1GWBBall Freshman #PlayeroftheWeek— Big Ten Women's Hoops (@B1Gwbball) February 22, 2021
@CaitlinClark22 of @IowaWBB
Posted 32 points on Feb. 18 vs. Penn State, her 8th 30-point game this yr
Most 30-point games by rookie since '09-10 (ORU's Kevi Luper & Delaware's @De11eDonne)#B1G https://t.co/HVYdMjaxMX pic.twitter.com/ynD618m4l7
As we've been joking for the past three months, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award should really be renamed the Caitlin Clark Award at this point. She's now won it 11 times this season, which sets a new Big Ten record, breaking the old record of 10, set by Nebraska's Jessica Shepard in 2015-16. Recall that she's set that record in a shorter season than normal (a typical season would have included a few more weeks of non-conference games, which would have provided additional opportunities to win the award) and, of course, that there are still a few more weeks to play -- she can continue to pad her record.
There's no drama about who will win Big Ten Freshman of the Year; it will be Clark and if the vote isn't unanimous, there should be a massive inquiry. She's staggeringly good for a freshman, So good, in fact, that she's earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors four times this year (as well as another three inclusions on the Big Ten's Player of the Week honor roll) and is a legitimate contender to be Big Ten Player of the Year on top of Big Ten Freshman of the Year. (Which would give Iowa an incredible streak of having the B1G Player of the Year four years in a row.)
I don't think Clark will win Big Ten Player of the Year this season -- that will probably be Michigan's excellent Naz Hillmon, who's second in the league in scoring (25.9, just behind Clark's 26.9 ppg) and field goal percentage (.651) and first in the league in rebounding (11.5 rpg). She also has the benefit of playing on a team with a better record than Clark; Michigan is 13-2 overall and 8-2 in the Big Ten, while Iowa is 12-6 overall and 8-6 in the Big Ten. And whether it should or not, seniority is likely to play a factor -- Hillmon is a junior, while Clark is freshman; it wouldn't be surprising if voters declined to vote for Clark on the basis that she should have multiple opportunities in the future to win B1G Player of the Year honors.
But whether she's named Big Ten Player of the Year or not, Clark's freshman season has absolutely been one for the record books. Although that's not quite fair to say, given how she's tearing the record books to shreds. Clark is closing in on Iowa's freshman-year records for scoring, assists, and 3-pointers made. She's 19 behind Jaime Printy's freshman record of 82 3s made, set in 2009-10. Clark averages 3.5 made 3s per game; if she maintains that for the rest of the year, she should catch Printy's record, as Iowa should play at least six more games this season (four more scheduled regular season games, at least one Big Ten Tournament game, at least one NCAA Tournament game hopefully). She also has 119 assists this year, 29 behind Kathleen Doyle's freshman record of 148, set in 2015-16. Clark is averaging 4.3 assists per game this year; if she maintains that pace and Iowa plays at least six games, she'll be close to catching Doyle for that record too.
But let's talk about scoring. Clark has 485 points so far this season, 16 behind Printy's record of 501, also set in 2009-10. Given that Clark averages 26.9 ppg, she should break that record today. And If she maintains her average of 26.9 ppg and Iowa plays six more games, that would give her a stunning 646 points for the year.
To put that in perspective, there have only been 3 higher-scoring seasons than that in Iowa WBB history.
If she has a few more games with 30+ points and Iowa can win a game or two in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament, she might even be able to catch Haugejorde for the third-highest scoring season in Iowa history. And, again, she's doing that in a shortened season -- and without the benefit of playing many cupcake non-conference opponents.
Speaking of 30-point games... Clark has eight (!) games with at least 30 points this season, which are the most by a Division I freshman since 2009-10, when Elena Della Donne (Delaware) and Kevi Luper (Oral Roberts) also had eight games with 30+ points. Anytime you're posting accomplishments comparable to Della Donne, one of the best women's basketball players of the last 20 years, you're in pretty good company.
She's also been on an absolute heater lately, posting four straight games with 30+ points, which is also pretty rarefied air:
Freshman phenom @CaitlinClark22 dropped 32 points today for @IowaWBB, marking her 4th consecutive 30-point game.— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) February 18, 2021
Only 3 other players have recorded a streak of 4+ 30-point games since 2015-16, and the only freshman of the 4. https://t.co/ncw3yQXGEW
Her torrid scoring pace is actually a potentially record-setting scoring pace, too.
Through 18 games, Clark has scored 485 points in her career. That average of 26.94 points per game puts her on pace to reach 1,000 points in a hair over 37 games.— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) February 19, 2021
The NCAA record for fewest games to 1,000 points?
Clark is also marrying a high usage rate with remarkably high scoring efficiency:
.@CaitlinClark22 leads the country in usage rate, finishing 38.5% of plays for @IowaWBB when on the floor. Remarkably, she's able to be in the top 5% in scoring efficiency despite that volume, averaging 1.22 points each time she tries to shoot.https://t.co/12U25xic8y https://t.co/EXTAje5oQ6— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) February 19, 2021
That's a jaw-dropping combination, especially for a perimeter player like Clark (for instance, Luka Garza also has a high usage rate and ranks highly in scoring efficiency, but he's a big who spends a lot of time near the basket). Clark is an absolute unicorn of a player, in so many ways.
The hype for Clark entering this season was sky-high... if anything, she's only managed to exceed it with her play this year. And the scary thing is that there are still plenty of things for her to improve in the future (turnover rate would be a big one, but her shooting can get even better, too), so the best of Clark is likely yet to come. That's scary for the rest of the Big Ten, but exciting for us. In the meantime, enjoy each and every opportunity to watch Clark play -- she's something truly special to behold.