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NCAA women’s basketball tournament: Look who’s coming to Iowa
Iowa-ISU hype can wait; there are storylines aplenty for the Iowa City subregion
IOWA CITY — Remember Rachel Saunders? She led Iowa City West to a state championship four years ago.
How about Mary Crompton? Her long-range exploits were a staple at Iowa City Regina, not so long ago.
Then there’s Lauren Jensen. She spent the first year of her college career as an Iowa Hawkeye, then departed.
They’ll all be back this weekend as part of the Iowa City subregion of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
» Photos from Selection Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Seventh-seeded Colorado (22-8) faces 10-seed Creighton (20-9) in a first-round game at 12:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN News) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, then it’s 2-seed Iowa (23-7) vs. No. 15 Illinois State (19-13) at 3 p.m. (ESPN).
“I had a feeling they might bump us up to a 2,” Iowa sophomore guard Caitlin Clark said. “We’re very happy with that.”
Nearly 13,000 tickets for both of the first two rounds had been sold as of 4:45 Monday afternoon.
» UPDATE: Tickets for Friday’s first-round games are sold out
When the pairings were revealed Sunday, much of the immediate scuttlebutt surrounded a potential matchup between Iowa and Iowa State in the Sweet 16 at Greensboro, N.C. But there is plenty of ball to be played before that.
“These guys are pretty savvy,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. “They understand the consequences in looking ahead.”
Plus, there are adequate storylines for the opening weekend.
The most obvious is the return of Jensen. She was a reserve guard for Iowa last season as a freshman, then transferred last spring to Creighton.
With the Bluejays, she has started 28 games as a sophomore and is second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game. She has earned the opportunity to show her stuff from the perimeter, and has converted on 44 percent of her 3-point opportunities.
In her senior season, Saunders is logging 20 minutes per game, averaging 5.6 points per game for Creighton.
The Hawkeyes and the Bluejays are frequent preseason scrimmage partners, and they were NCAA first-round combatants in 2018. Creighton won that game 76-70 in Los Angeles.
Iowa is facing Illinois State for the first time in nine years. The Redbirds have three Iowans on their roster. One (Lexi Boles) was a teammate of Clark’s at West Des Moines Dowling.
Another (Crompton) was a teammate for the All-Iowa Attack AAU club.
“Caitlin and Monika (Czinano) are going to be a tough combination to stop,” Crompton said Monday.
“Obviously, Caitlin is a very gifted player, and I loved being her teammate.”
Illinois State earned an automatic berth Sunday, avenging two regular-season losses to Northern Iowa, 50-48, in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final.
The Redbirds trailed 48-42 with 5:12 left, but scored the final eight points, taking the lead for good on a bucket by Juliunn Redmond with 1:52 left.
“I (didn’t) know much about them (Sunday),” Bluder said. “We had practice at 1 p.m. (Monday), and we’ll have a scout prepared.”
Like Illinois State, Iowa is an automatic qualifier; the Hawkeyes were champions of the Big Ten tournament.
Ranked No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll, the Hawkeyes carry a seven-game win streak. Included are three wins over Indiana and one against Michigan. Both are ranked in the top 15.
The second-round game is Sunday at a time to be determined.
NCAA women’s basketball: Iowa City subregion capsules
Coach: J.R. Payne (12th year, 195-196; 6th year at Colorado, 94-83)
Final AP ranking: NR
Greensboro Region seed: No. 7
Conference: Pac-12 (9-7, 5th; tournament semifinal)
Leading scorers: Mya Hollingshed (6-3, sr.), 14.1 ppg; Quay Miller (6-3, jr.), 10.6 ppg
Scoring averages: Offense 65.4, defense 56.8
Tournament history: 14th appearance, first since 2013. Three Elite Eights, most recently in 2002.
Common opponents with Iowa: Samford (Colorado won, 81-48; Iowa won, 91-54); Wisconsin (Colorado won, 67-51; Iowa won, 84-50)
Coach: Jim Flanery (20th year at Creighton, 356-243)
Final AP ranking: NR
Greensboro Region seed: No. 10
Conference: Big East (15-5, 3rd; tournament quarterfinalist)
Leading scorers: Emma Ronsiek (6-1, soph.), 14.9 ppg; Lauren Jensen (5-10, soph.), 12.3 ppg; Morgan Maly (6-1, soph.), 12.0 ppg
Scoring averages: Offense 74.8, defense 63.4
Tournament history: 8th appearance. Advanced to the second round on five occasions, including 2018, when it defeated Iowa in the first round.
Common opponents with Iowa: Nebraska (Creighton lost, 67-62; Iowa won three times, 95-86, 93-83 and 83-66); Northern Iowa (Creighton won, 79-72; Iowa won, 82-61)
Coach: Kristen Gillespie (5th year, 87-60)
Final AP ranking: NR
Greensboro Region seed: No. 15
Conference: Missouri Valley (12-6, 4th; tournament champion)
Leading scorers: Juliunn Redmond (5-11, sr.), 17.6 ppg; DeAnna Wilson (6-2, jr.), 13.1 ppg; Mary Crompton (5-8, jr.), 9.4 ppg
Scoring averages: Offense 65.2, defense 62.8
Tournament history: 6th appearance, first since 2008. Reached the second round in 1989.
Common opponents with Iowa: Purdue (Illinois State lost, 76-64; Iowa won, 79-66); Wisconsin (Illinois State lost, 70-60; Iowa won, 84-50); Evansville (Illinois State won, 87-68 and 75-60; Iowa won, 93-56); Northern Iowa (Illinois State lost, 74-67 and 70-63, then won, 50-48; Iowa won, 82-61)
Coach: Lisa Bluder (38th year, 818-383; 22nd year at Iowa, 462-241)
Final AP ranking: No. 8
Greensboro Region seed: No. 2
Conference: Big Ten (14-4, T-1st; tournament champion)
Leading scorers: Caitlin Clark (6-0, soph.), 27.4 ppg; Monika Czinano (6-3, sr.), 21.1 ppg; McKenna Warnock (6-1, jr.), 11.4 ppg
Scoring averages: Offense 84.5, defense 70.8
Tournament history: 28th appearance, 16th under Bluder. Final Four in 1993; four Elite Eights (most recently in 2019), eight Sweet 16s (most recently in 2021)