NCAA women's basketball: Hawkeyes draw Cal
Iowa earns 5th straight bid, will face Golden Bears at South Bend
IOWA CITY -- Another West Coast opponent, without the West Coast travel.
Iowa earned its fifth straight NCAA women's basketball tournament bid Monday; the Hawkeyes (19-11) drew the No. 9 seed in the Raleigh Region and will face No. 8 seed California (24-9) in a first-round game Sunday.
Tipoff will be 11:10 a.m. (Iowa time) at the Edmund Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind., in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.
"We're close to home, and we haven't been close to home in a long time," Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said after watching ESPN's selection show at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"Close" is a relative term. South Bend is a drive of five-plus hours, but it's a cozy trip compared to the last two years. Iowa was sent to Stanford, Calif., in 2010 and to Spokane, Wash., last year.
Those trips ended with losses to Stanford (2010 second round) and Gonzaga (2011 first round).
"My mom texted me right after our name went up," said Samantha Logic, a freshman from Racine, Wis. "She was really excited we're so close, and we'll have the whole crew coming."
Iowa will be making its 21st NCAA appearance, its ninth under Bluder. Of those nine appearances, this is the sixth time the Hawkeyes will play in the 8-vs.-9 game.
The Hawkeyes closed the regular season with their annual February rush, winning eight straight regular-season games to vault into a second-place tie in the Big Ten. They lost in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals to Nebraska.
"Think of where we were six weeks ago," Bluder said. "To go from there to where we are now, we're very excited."
California was the Pac-12 runner-up behind Stanford, and those were the only Pac-12 teams to earn bids.
Seven Big Ten teams -- Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan -- were selected, the most in league history.
Iowa and Cal both feature two freshman starters. Logic has been in the lineup all season for Iowa; Melissa Dixon hopped into the starting five after Jaime Printy tore an ACL at Wisconsin in early February.
Cal's rookies -- Rashanda Gray (6-3 forward) and Brittany Boyd (5-9 guard) are second and third on the team in scoring, both at a shade above 10 points per game. Layshia Clarendon (5-9, junior, guard) leads the Golden Bears at 12.6 ppg.
Coach Lindsay Gottlieb is in her first year at Cal after three years at California-Santa Barbara.
Six of the Golden Bears' nine losses were by five points or less, and the teams have three common opponents.
Both lost to Ohio State, and both defeated Illinois. Cal beat UNLV; Iowa did not.
One statistic that pops out at you immediately: California boasts a rebounding margin of plus-13 per game.
"We know they'll be an athletic team," said Iowa's Kamille Wahlin, who -- like fellow senior Kelly Krei -- will play in her fourth NCAA tournament.
The late-season run made Iowa a virtual lock to qualify, but, "You're always a little nervous until you see your name pop up," center Morgan Johnson said.
Logic said, "I was pretty sure we'd get in, probably 99 percent. And when I saw Michigan and Michigan State (selected), I was really confident."
Johnson's younger sister, Taylor, is a freshman at Creighton. The Bluejays qualified by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship.
"I went and watched them," Johnson said. "I'm glad she gets to share in the excitement with me."
Sunday's winner will most likely face top-seeded Notre Dame -- the 2011 NCAA runner-up -- in Round 2 on Tuesday. Notre Dame entertains 16th-seeded Liberty on Sunday.[gallery columns="2"]