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Iowa women’s basketball takes advantage of experience, double-bye as it seeks another Big Ten tournament title
IOWA CITY — Iowa women’s basketball, like many other teams, has a “24-hour rule.”
After 24 hours of enjoying Sunday’s win over No. 2 Indiana, it was time to focus on this week’s Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis.
“You kind of have to flip a switch when tournament time comes,” center Monika Czinano said after the win.
Lisa Bluder’s voice needed a bit more than 24 hours to recover from Sunday, though.
"I think we all knew (Clark earning Big Ten Player of the Year) was going to happen,“ Bluder said Tuesday in a hoarse voice, interrupted by a few coughs. “I’m really not choked up about it.”
Thankfully for Bluder’s voice and Iowa’s championship aspirations, the Hawkeyes again have the benefit of a double-bye in the conference tournament.
“The double-bye is so important just because of rest and only having to play three games in three days, which is such an advantage in my opinion,” Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes are taking full advantage of the rest. They did not practice Wednesday and had the “shortest practice of all year” on Monday.
“We’re going a little bit lighter this week than usual,” Bluder said.
Even with the double-bye, repeating as Big Ten tournament champions will be difficult considering the strength of the Big Ten. Five teams are in the top 17 of the AP poll.
“Luckily you don’t have to play all five,” Bluder said.
Iowa’s first game will be Friday at 5:30 p.m. against No. 7-seeded Purdue after its narrow 57-55 win against Wisconsin Thursday evening.
The Hawkeyes won the regular-season matchup against the Boilermakers, 83-68, on Dec. 29.
“It just seems like eons ago,” Bluder said. “Our team is so much better since when we played them last time, but I’m sure that they feel the same way.”
Then, Iowa could face two of the top teams in the country on Saturday and Sunday.
No. 3-seeded Maryland, Iowa’s most likely semifinal opponent, routed the Hawkeyes by 28 points on Feb. 21.
“We would love to have that opportunity” to have another shot at Maryland, Bluder said.
“And we would love not to have that opportunity,” Bluder said. “Excellent basketball team. … If you avoid them, that’s great. But if we have to plan, we’ll be more ready this time.“
Iowa, if it gets to that stage, would most likely have to face top-seeded Indiana in the championship, although No. 4-seeded Ohio State and No. 5-seeded Michigan also are possibilities.
The Hawkeyes are quite familiar with this stage. All five starters and 11 of 15 total players on the roster were on last year’s Big Ten tournament-winning team.
“We just have so much experience in that situation that I’m really excited to be able to go up there,” Czinano said.
The trip will have added meaning for Czinano, who is from Watertown, Minn. — about 30 miles west of the Target Center.
“What a dream, right?” Bluder said. “To have the Big Ten championship in your backyard and have the opportunity to play for a championship there.”
As for Bluder’s voice — it’s “just a cold” — the extra few days of rest seem to be working.
“I sound a whole lot better than I did yesterday,” Bluder said Tuesday. “So I’m on the mend.”