College Womens Basketball

Linder's projection: 4th-place tie for Iowa women's basketball, NCAA bid

Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland remain the Big Ten favorites

Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (10) goes up for a shot against Drake’s Brenni Rose (12) and Drake Bulldogs guard Paige Greiner (15) in the Hawkeyes’ 79-66 win last Thursday in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes open Big Ten play Thursday at Wisconsin. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa’s Megan Gustafson (10) goes up for a shot against Drake’s Brenni Rose (12) and Drake Bulldogs guard Paige Greiner (15) in the Hawkeyes’ 79-66 win last Thursday in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes open Big Ten play Thursday at Wisconsin. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

After four days at home with their families, the Iowa Hawkeyes re-assemble today as preparation begins for the Big Ten women’s basketball season.

Specifically, a Thursday trip to Wisconsin.

There are plenty of road trips in the front end of the Hawkeyes’ schedule; five of Iowa’s first seven games are on the road. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, three of those five road games (at Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska) aren’t exactly against heavyweights, though Illinois proved last year that nothing can be taken for granted.

The first portion of Iowa’s schedule was a rousing success. Iowa raced to a 12-1 start, a mythical state championship, a No. 23 national ranking and an RPI of 24. The Hawkeyes put themselves in excellent position to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015.

Junior Megan Gustafson (22.2 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, 69.8-percent field-goal rate) has blossomed into one of the best posts in the country. The only downer came in the UNI win Dec. 17, when Tania Davis tore the ACL in her left knee. She’ll miss the remainder of the season, and that greatly hurts Iowa’s backcourt depth.

With the caveat that nobody else is injured, Iowa is in good shape for an upper-division finish in the Big Ten, and thus an NCAA bid.

Before the season, I picked Iowa at 19-10 overall, 9-7 in the Big Ten, then I lowered the overall mark to 18-11 when Jinaya Houston departed.

The Hawkeyes’ stock has soared through the last month, though. The upper tier to the Big Ten — Ohio State, Michigan and Maryland, in that order — still looks the same that it did in October. I’m going to project Iowa’s league record at 10-6 (I considered 11-5), with a fourth-place tie with Minnesota and resurgent Rutgers.

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A 1-1 finish in the Big Ten tournament would put the Hawkeyes’ final regular-season record at 23-8, which would be far more than enough to get a bid on Selection Monday.

My Big Ten projections

1.

Ohio State

26-4, 14-2

Big Ten tournament: Champion
Postseason: NCAA, No. 3 seed
 
2.

Michigan

24-5, 13-3

Big Ten tournament: Semifinalist
Postseason: NCAA, No. 5 seed
 
3.

Maryland

23-6, 12-4

Big Ten tournament: Runner-up
Postseason: NCAA No. 5 seed
 
4.

Iowa

22-7, 10-6

Big Ten tournament: Semifinalist
Postseason: NCAA, No. 6 seed
 
5.

Minnesota

21-8, 10-6

Big Ten tournament: Quarterfinalist
Postseason: NCAA, No. 8 seed
 
6.

Rutgers

22-8, 10-6

Big Ten tournament: Quarterfinalist
Postseason: NCAA, No. 6 seed
 
7.

Penn State

17-12, 8-8

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Big Ten tournament: Quarterfinalist
Postseason: WNIT
 
8.

Purdue

17-13, 8-8

Big Ten tournament: Quarterfinalist
Postseason: WNIT
 
9.

Michigan State

17-12, 7-9

Big Ten tournament: Second round
Postseason: WNIT
 
10.

Indiana

14-15, 7-9

Big Ten tournament: Second round
Postseason: None
 
11.

Illinois

15-15, 6-10

Big Ten tournament: Second round
Postseason: None
 
12.

Nebraska

13-16, 4-12

Big Ten tournament: Second round
Postseason: None
 
13.

Northwestern

9-21, 2-14

Big Ten tournament: First round
Postseason: None
 
14.

Wisconsin

8-21, 1-15

Big Ten tournament: First round
Postseason: None
 

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

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