Iowa Women's Basketball

Iowa women's basketball: No. 2-seed likely in NCAA tournament

Selection show is Monday, and there will be a crowd

Iowa’s Hannah Stewart celebrates with Coach Lisa Bluder after the Hawkeyes defeated Maryland to win the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament title last weekend. The Hawkeyes will learn their NCAA draw Monday. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today)
Iowa’s Hannah Stewart celebrates with Coach Lisa Bluder after the Hawkeyes defeated Maryland to win the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament title last weekend. The Hawkeyes will learn their NCAA draw Monday. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today)

IOWA CITY — In 1996, the Iowa Hawkeyes were a No. 2 seed and rode home-court advantage to the Sweet 16 in Chicago.

Lisa Bluder is hoping for a not-so-instant replay.

“No. 2, and Chicago ... that would be a best-case scenario,” Bluder said. “Being able to take our fans along with us, that would be helpful.”

NCAA women’s basketball tournament brackets will be revealed Monday (6 p.m., ESPN). The Hawkeyes won’t be watching by themselves.

On the heels of a Big Ten tournament championship, the university is throwing a party for the team in conjunction with the selection show, and the public is invited. Doors open at 4:30 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the celebration begins at 5 and the public will be allowed to watch the show with the team at 6.

It’s a team, and a season, worth celebrating. Only five teams in school history have won more games than this year’s squad, which stands 26-6 and is ranked No. 8 in the nation.

Iowa was projected as a No. 2 NCAA seed on the most recent reveal, and the Hawkeyes have only enhanced their case since. They won three games in Indianapolis last week, including a convincing 90-76 victory over Maryland in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament.

“I think we should be a 2,” Bluder said. “But I don’t want the team to be disappointed if we’re a 3.”

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The resume is 2-seed worthy. Iowa owns an RPI of 7, a strength of schedule of 10. The Hawkeyes own nine wins over RPI top-50 teams, four against top-20 (two over Maryland, one each over Iowa State and Drake).

The top four seeds in each region host the first- and second-round games. The Hawkeyes will be one of 16 host schools.

“We have a lot of confidence at home,” Bluder said.

And a lot of success. Iowa is 15-0 at Carver this season. The last time an Iowa team was perfect at home was 2014-15. That team, driven by seniors Samantha Logic, Melissa Dixon and Bethany Doolittle, won two NCAA games at home and reached the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City before bowing out against Baylor.

Iowa hasn’t won an NCAA game since. The Hawkeyes settled for the WNIT in 2016 and 2017, then were bumped in the first round of the NCAA by Creighton last year in Los Angeles.

“I think we’ll be able to handle situations better than we did last year,” Bluder said. “We’re better than we were last year.”

Assuming the Hawkeyes are a 2 seed, they will be paired with a 15 seed in the first round Friday or Saturday, with 7 facing 10 in the other first-round game. The second-round game will be Sunday or Monday.

Then, Bluder said, it all comes down to matchups.

A hard matchup for the Hawkeyes, she said, would be “a five-guard lineup. Somebody that would pull both Megan (Gustafson) and Hannah (Stewart) away from the basket.”

Gustafson was named the national player of the year Friday by ESPN.

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Two wins at home would land the Hawkeyes in the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in school history. Chicago is the only regional site that’s nearby; the others are at Albany, N.Y., Greensboro, N.C., and Portland, Ore.

The Final Four is at Tampa, Fla., April 5-7.

Iowa's NCAA tournament resume

Record: 26-6

Big Ten: 14-4 (2nd)

Big Ten tournament: Champion (defeated Indiana, 70-61; defeated Rutgers, 72-67; defeated Maryland, 90-76)

RPI: 7

Strength of schedule: 10

Last 10: 9-1

W-L vs. RPI top 50: 9-5

W-L vs. RPI top 100: 15-6

Best wins: Iowa State (H), Maryland (H & N), Drake (A), Rutgers (H & N)

Worst losses: None outside the top 100; lowest RPI loss was to No. 84 Purdue (A).

ESPN.com bracketologist Charlie Creme says: Iowa is projected as a No. 2 seed — its best since 1996 — in the Greensboro Region, projected to face 15-seed Towson in the first round, with Brigham Young and Central Florida meeting in the 7-vs.-10 game.

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

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