Hawkeyes probably on wrong side of bubble again

Women's basketball: WNIT is likely destination for second straight year

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IOWA CITY — If the Iowa Hawkeyes could have a mulligan, they would have taken it in late December.

“I would love to take the Illinois game back,” women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said.

That was the only really bad loss this season for the Hawkeyes (17-13). And it might be the loss that ultimately keeps them out of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

The NCAA women’s field will be announced at 6 p.m. Monday on ESPN. Bluder said that she has “quit trying to guess” Iowa’s postseason fate, but said, “If I was a betting person, I would bet on the WNIT.”

Bluder has taken 12 Iowa teams to the NCAA, including eight in a row from 2008 to 2015. That streak ended last year, when the Hawkeyes settled for the WNIT, and lost to Ball State in the first round.

ESPN.com women’s bracketogist Charlie Creme feels like the Hawkeyes will fall just short of the NCAA again.

“I don’t think (they’ll make it),” he tweeted late last week. “They will be discussed among those last teams, but I don’t see their resume stacking up to others.”

Creme has Iowa (63 RPI as of Sunday) among his “first four teams out” of his mock bracket. He has Drake (28-4, 29 RPI) as a No. 8 seed, Iowa State (18-12, 59 RPI) as a 10.

UNI (24-8, 50 RPI) is a likely WNIT qualifier. Drake beat UNI in the Missouri Valley Conference final Sunday to capture an automatic bid.

Iowa owns a strength of schedule of 21, including a very challenging non-conference schedule.

“We kept hearing that (the NCAA committee) would be rewarding a strong non-conference schedule. If they put their money where their mouth is, then we might have a chance,” Bluder said.

The Hawkeyes finished in an eighth-place tie in the Big Ten at 8-8 (7-1 at home, 1-7 on the road). Based on RPI, the Hawkeyes’ biggest win this season was an overtime triumph over Michigan State (41).

The league slate began with an ugly loss at Illinois (RPI No. 208), and the Big Ten tournament began and ended with a 78-73 loss to Northwestern in the 8-9 game in the second round.

For the second straight year, the Hawkeyes will learn their postseason fate without the cameras of the media. Then they’ll get to work for whatever comes next.

The WNIT begins Wednesday; the NCAA opens Friday.

NCAA TOURNAMENT RESUME: IOWA

Record: 17-13

Big Ten: 8-8 (tied for 8th)

Big Ten tournament: Second round (lost to Northwestern, 78-73)

RPI: 63

Strength of schedule: 21

Last 10: 4-6

W-L vs. RPI top 50: 3-9

W-L vs. RPI top 100: 7-12

Good wins: Michigan State (H), James Madison (N), Northern Iowa (H), Iowa State (H)

Bad losses: Illinois (A), Penn State (A)

ESPN.com bracketologist Charlie Creme says: Iowa is one of the “first four teams out” of the NCAA tournament.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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