Shelley Till, BTN women's basketball analyst, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year, Big Ten women?s basketball fans! As a BTN women's basketball analyst, I'll be contributing here weekly for the entire conference season and look forward to hearing from you. I'm on Twitter (@ShelleyTill) and Instagram (ShelleyTill), too. As we enter 2016 and a new conference season, I've whipped up a few New Year's observations for a number of the Big Ten women's teams in the mix of the two Top 25 rankings.

Maryland: As usual, Maryland is picking up right where they left off. They are strong, big, fast, athletic, and wow can they score the ball!  They went toe to toe against UConn on Monday, and Brionna Jones proved she is a force to be reckoned with.  The best scoring team in the nation has few areas to resolve, but if they?re going to run past the big dogs come tourney time, then they?ll need to play at their pace while minimizing turnovers.

[MORE: Polls | Standings | Scoreboard | Stat leaders ]

Ohio State: Coach Kevin McGuff has been brewing a special potion in Columbus since he arrived and this just may be the season he casts a spell. It?s no secret the Buckeyes have another high-powered offense led by one of the best in the nation, Kelsey Mitchell.  They do need to focus their efforts on defense now, too. Yes, they've lost to South Carolina, UConn, and Notre Dame, but Ohio State ranks 293rd out of 344 teams in scoring defense, giving up 71.5 ppg.

Northwestern: The Wildcats are off to their best start under head coach Joe McKeown. This is a team that?s been knocking on the door of the upper echelon in the Big Ten.  Will this be the year they knock it in?  Their experience and ability to take care of the ball — they had just two turnovers vs UM-KC — are both huge pluses for a squad that is anything but big.  With their limited size, they?ll need other players besides Nia Coffey (currently averaging a double double) to step up their board production.

Michigan State: Coach Suzy Merchant is doing the happy dance because her team doesn?t resemble a MASH unit heading into conference play as everyone is healthy. Note to the rest of the conference, you do not want to get into a free throw shooting contest with the Spartans. Their one weakness? Taking care of the basketball. They like to rebound and go, so if they do that while playing under control, they?ll be tough to beat.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes are coming off of a Sweet Sixteen season and the graduation of a very strong scoring trio. It?s obvious that this team has some big shoes to fill. That being said, they have a wealth of young talent who are contributing. To continue their push for the Big Ten ring, they?ll need to get much tougher on the boards and commit to rise to level of the Big Ten's physical play.

Nebraska: Although not currently ranked, the Huskers are receiving votes and deservedly so since their only losses were at the hands of UConn and in overtime against Cal. The Huskers lead the league in assists, play good, clean defense, and rarely make mistakes. Freshman phenom Jess Shepard is carrying the offense inside. If Nebraska starts to take more shots from long range, look out. This team could be the total package.