Hawkeyes draw Miami as first-round NCAA foe
Iowa is a 9 seed; second-ranked Notre Dame likely looms in Round 2
IOWA CITY -- The University of Iowa coaching staff began advance scouting on a cluster of about eight teams last week, in preparation for the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
"Miami wasn't one of them," head coach Lisa Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes (20-12) earned a No. 9 seed and will face the eighth-seeded Hurricanes (21-10) in the first round at 6:30 Sunday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (ESPN2).
Iowa is making its 22nd appearance, its sixth in a row. Thirteen other programs have qualified each of the past six years; Iowa is the only Big Ten program that can make that claim.
"It means a lot," said Jaime Printy, one of three seniors on the team. "I was a little nervous (about whether we would make it), more than any other year."
Top-seeded, second-ranked Notre Dame (31-1) meets Tennessee-Martin (19-14) in the other game at 4 p.m.
The winners play at 8:30 next Tuesday night.
"Notre Dame would be a great potential opponent," said sophomore point guard Samantha Logic. "We would have nothing to lose.
"But we need to have 100-percent focus on Miami. And we will."
Miami wasn't on Bluder's radar as a first-round opponent because she, like most everyone else, figured the Hawkeyes would be a 10 seed, or maybe an 11.
Iowa has qualified for the NCAA 10 times in Bluder's 13 seasons (she has a first-round record of 3-6, a second-round mark of 0-3). Of those 10 berths, the Hawkeyes have played in the 8-vs.-9 game on seven occasions.
"It's almost laughable," Bluder said. "It seems we're always in that (8-vs.-9) game. I thought we'd be 10 or 11, and up we pop in the 8-9 game again."
"I expected a 10 or 11 (seed)," said senior center Morgan Johnson. "Our strength of schedule boosted us up. We're a good team, and I think the NCAA knows that."
The Hawkeyes entered the Associated Press rankings for a week in late January, when they were 16-5 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten.
But they lost five straight games -- including a nasty three-game spell against Illinois, Northwestern and Minnesota -- and were forced to scramble and recover at the end of the season to clinch a tournament berth.
In the end, the Hawkeyes' strength of schedule (21st in the country) was enough to get them in. Iowa has an RPI of 42.
The Hurricanes tied for fourth in the ACC at 11-7, handing Duke its only conference loss.
"I've watched them a couple times," Logic said. "Obviously, they come from a good conference. They're pretty athletic. They're a great team."
Against four common opponents (Penn State, Wisconsin, Florida State and North Carolina), Iowa posted a 2-3 record while Miami was 2-4.
Miami is a strong defensive squad, allowing just 58.9 points per game.
The 2011 Associated Press national co-coach of the year, Miami coach Katie Meier employs a nine-player rotation.
Morgan Stroman (6-foot-1 senior forward) leads the Hurricanes at 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while Stefanie Yderstrom (5-8 senior guard from Sweden) adds 12 points per game and has made 60 3-pointers. Shawnice Wilson (9.9 ppg) stands 6-6.
The NCAA is coming to Carver for the first time in 2009. Iowa lost to Georgia Tech in the first round that year. The last time Iowa got to the Sweet 16 (in 1996), it won its first two games at home.Iowa leads the all-time series with Miami, 2-0, beating the Hurricanes twice in the 1985-86 season.