February 22, 2024 

Q&A: Meghan McKeown talks Big Ten regular season storylines, looks ahead to NCAA Tournament

McKeown: 'I don't know if there are words to describe the impact that Caitlin Clark has had, not just in America but globally'

As the Big Ten regular season approaches its final week-and-a-half, The Next caught up with Meghan McKeown, someone who’s watched more Big Ten games in person than most, as a broadcaster for Big Ten Network, Fox and Peacock. 

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

She discussed the impact of Caitlin Clark and how it’s been a turning point year for the sport’s coverage, what’s surprised her in the conference this season and more.

Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.

Order ‘Rare Gems’ and save 30%

Howard Megdal, founder and editor of The Next and The IX, released his next book on May 7, 2024. This deeply reported story follows four connected generations of women’s basketball pioneers, from Elvera “Peps” Neuman to Cheryl Reeve and from Lindsay Whalen to Sylvia Fowles and Paige Bueckers.

If you enjoy his coverage of women’s basketball every Wednesday at The IX, you will love “Rare Gems: How Four Generations of Women Paved the Way for the WNBA.” Click the link below to order and enter MEGDAL30 at checkout.

The Next: What’ve been some of the bigger surprises for you this season?

Meghan McKeown: I think Michigan State and Penn State. 

You never know with a first-year head coach in Robyn Fralick what can happen. There wasn’t a ton of movement with the old roster, but the one thing that’s emerged for Michigan State is that you have a core group of people who love Michigan State, and that’s something we’re seeing in college basketball. You can watch a game now, I think as a casual fan even, and you can tell who’s playing for the front of the jersey and who’s playing for the back of the jersey. That’s a huge benefit Michigan State’s had, and why I think they’ve been successful this year. I know they’ve cooled off a little bit down the stretch, but still, they play as a team and a unit, whereas you have other teams across the country who you could really tell there’s a disconnect amongst the players because there’s not that pride in playing for your school as much as there used to be. 

Penn State I think is really interesting. With so many new transfers coming in, it goes one of two ways: You either find chemistry and gel and it takes a little bit of time and it happens or it doesn’t. Penn State has lost every game in February so far, but it’s one of those teams that a lot of people don’t want to see come tournament time because of their ability to turn you over, press and how fast they play. 

The Next: You look at the middle of the standings, you have Maryland at 8-7 then Michigan, Illinois and Penn State at 7-8, all kind of on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. You already talked about Penn State, so of Maryland, Michigan and Illinois, which of those three should people be keeping an eye on?

MM: Michigan to me has two big wins. That Ohio State win was huge for them to stay in the tournament conversation. And then winning on the road at Penn State was a huge win for them. They play Ohio State next week. That is another big opportunity. I think they’re an NCAA Tournament team because of how they defend. Leading the league in scoring defense, I think that should be rewarded with a tournament bid. 

Maryland is interesting. They have a couple opportunities down the stretch to get a couple more big wins. They play Ohio State this weekend. They still have Indiana coming up. They are in a position to still pick up a couple more wins. They’ve got talent, it just hasn’t really come together the way that it has in the past. 

Illinois picked up a massive win over Indiana. You have to think that that’s at least going to get them in bubble talk, but they still have a lot of work to do to get back into that tournament conversation concretely.

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

The Next: Obviously I have to ask about Caitlin Clark. Being at as many Iowa games as you’ve been at this year and just hearing the buzz, can you speak to the impact you’ve seen her have on the conference and the sport as a whole this season?

MM: I don’t know if there are words to describe the impact that Caitlin Clark has had, not just in America but globally. I was on my honeymoon in Italy this summer, and I had an Italian person ask me about Caitlin Clark, if I knew her. You have people in Italy talking about her. She has truly become a global sensation in that sense. 

She’s brought so many eyeballs to women’s basketball which is awesome. She may be the most exciting basketball player in the world right now, from her ability to knock down long-range shots, to her passing ability. She plays with pace. She’s so smart on the floor. I’ve said this line all season long, it’s like she’s playing guitar hero at level expert and everybody playing it at level easy. No one can keep up with her. In that sense, she’s done wonders for the women’s game. 

I always say, if you say you love basketball, then you should love women’s basketball because it’s more fundamental than the men’s game because you can’t play above the rim. In that sense, you should already love women’s basketball. But a knock against women’s basketball is that it’s not as exciting. Caitlin Clark has made women’s basketball incredibly exciting.

The Next: A couple other teams at the top of the conference are Indiana and Ohio State. Those two have made Elite Eight runs in recent years. How do you view where they are as we approach the end of the season?

MM: Ohio State is playing arguably its best basketball right now. They really looked scary against Michigan State a couple weeks ago when Jacy Sheldon, Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry got three fouls (before halftime) and sat the rest of the half, and the bench came in and went on a (17-5) run. They’ve got depth. They’ve started to finally click with Celeste Taylor in the lineup, and I just think that they are dangerous because they can turn you over, but also they can win in different ways. They can win by running fast and outscoring you, but they can also grind it out in the half-court with you which is really scary to think that they are as multifaceted as they are. 

For Indiana, it stinks because they were playing such great basketball right when Sydney Parrish went down (in January). She was playing great. She finally came back in that Illinois game. Teri Moren, who is one of the best coaches in the country, doesn’t like to play a deep bench necessarily, so they really only go six, maybe seven deep depending on the day. So they’ve got to find some health because when you don’t go deep on your bench, you gotta hope your players can just stay healthy. It’s worked for them. They won the league last year, and they didn’t have a deep bench, so that doesn’t necessarily equate to success or no success, but when you’re trying to make deep tournament runs, can you stay healthy?

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

The Next: You’ve broadcast a bunch of women’s games across different networks and platforms this season. I think we’ve had more women’s games on TV than ever before. As the audience grows, how have you seen the evolution of how the sport is distributed to people, because it seems like this year has been a turning point?

MM: It’s been awesome. Having this Big Ten media deal has been huge. Fox is doing a lot more women’s games. That’s not something we’re used to seeing necessarily, but you’re starting to see some of these bigger networks take a vested interest in women’s basketball. And look, if you give people access to it, people will watch. When you’re putting it on these prime networks, the ratings for some of these shows have been better than ever. 

More so than ever, people have access to watching women’s basketball, and they’re consuming it, and they like it. It’s wonderful that we’re finally in a place where the product is so good, and obviously Caitlin Clark has helped draw so many eyeballs to the sport. Now you just hope that people stay. You have this next-generation of stars coming up. JuJu Watkins is incredibly exciting to watch. Hannah Hidalgo at Notre Dame is a blast to watch. You have this next era of great players. Paige Bueckers is coming back for another year for UConn. It’s going to be interesting over the course of the next couple of years, but right now, women’s basketball, talent-wise, is at an all-time high.

Get 24/7 soccer coverage with The Equalizer

The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribers to The Next receive 50% off their subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.