Iowa Women's Basketball

Iowa women's basketball has a young roster, and still no schedule

With Big Ten player of the year Kathleen Doyle departed, focus shifts to Monika Czinano and Caitlin Clark

Women's basketball sports information director Hannah Ossman (left) introduces Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder at media day Monda
Women's basketball sports information director Hannah Ossman (left) introduces Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder at media day Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Jeff Linder/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Who will the Iowa Hawkeyes play? When? Where?

Nobody knows. Not even Lisa Bluder.

“Our schedule, I can’t really talk about. We still don’t have one,” Bluder said at a scaled-down preseason women’s basketball media day Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Never have we gone into a season not knowing who we’re going to play or when we’re going to play until this year. It is what it is. We just have to be ready for everybody.”

Most seasons, the Hawkeyes would have two or three games in the books by Nov. 9. But this coronavirus-wracked season probably won’t start until around Thanksgiving.

The Big Ten has announced a 20-game league season, and Bluder plans on at least four non-conference contests (including Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa), and maybe five.

Western Illinois has released its schedule, which includes a trip to Iowa City on Dec. 22.

“We’re trying (to fill our schedule). We’re still looking,” Bluder said. “It’s not easy. And quite honestly, the Big Ten was really late in deciding that we were going to play non-conference games.

“It’s a little bit tough to find that, and if we don’t, we don’t; we’ll play 24 this year. But 25 is the goal.”

Preseason media days traditionally consist of interviews with and photos of the players on the court at Carver. But this year, it was just Bluder at a table.

She doesn’t have a schedule, but she does have a roster. A young one.

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Iowa lost national player of the year Megan Gustafson after the 2019 season, then rebuilt around Kathleen Doyle, who followed Gustafson as Big Ten player of the year last season, when the Hawkeyes went 23-7 and were in the Big Ten title hunt until the last week of the regular season.

They probably would have hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament before that was shut down due to the first wave of COVID-19.

Now Doyle’s gone, too.

“What I’m really missing the most right now is that emotional leadership. you know, Kathleen just wore her heart on her sleeve,” Bluder said. “I just think that a lot of times as a point guard, a lot of people feed off your energy, and she just brought that all the time. Other people are kind of having to step up in that role.”

Three captains have been named for the 2020-21 season — seniors Alexis Sevillian and Zion Sanders, and redshirt sophomore Kate Martin.

Most eyes, however, will be on junior post Monika Czinano and freshman guard Caitlin Clark.

After spending her first season as Gustafson’s understudy, Czinano broke out in her first year as a starter, averaging 16.0 points per game, earning first-team all-Big Ten honors. Her 67.9-percent field-goal accuracy ranked second in the nation.

“Her improvement from freshman to sophomore year, I think, was nothing but remarkable,” Bluder said.

A high school all-American out of West Des Moines Dowling, Clark was the No. 4 prospect of the 2020 class, according to ESPN, the highest recruit of the Bluder era at Iowa.

Clark finished her career with 2,547 points, leading the state in scoring as a junior (32.5 points per game) and as a senior (33.7).

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Like Doyle and Samantha Logic before her, Clark will wear No. 22 at Iowa. And she wants to take the Hawkeyes to a place they haven’t been in a long time.

“I wanted to do something different,” she said in an April interview. “Iowa isn’t a program that always been to the Final Four (since 1993), and I want to help do something different.”

Clark is joined in the freshman class — ranked 17th by ESPN — by Sharon Goodman (Crestwood High School), Lauren Jensen (Lakeville, Minn.) and Shateah Wetering (Montezuma).

Goodman, according to Bluder, “is playing as well as Monika in practice. Right now, Monika has the start because of the experience level, but I am not going to hesitate to go to the bench and to use Sharon. To have the comfort of knowing that you have 10 fouls to give down there is tremendous, and us not having to change our game plan so much when Monika needs a break or gets into foul trouble.”

It’s just a guess, but Iowa’s starting lineup for Game 1 — wherever, whenever and against whomever that might be — could be Czinano and sophomore McKenna Warnock on the front line, with Clark and a combination of Sevillian, Martin and sophomore Gabbie Marshall in the backcourt.

The Hawkeyes enter the season with a 36-game win streak at Carver, but the crowds will be a fraction of the average attendance of 7,102 from last season.

“Our home-court advantage was based on our fans, and not having that I think is going to take a little bit of our energy away,” Bluder said. “We’re going to have to find our own energy this year.”

Iowa women's basketball 2020-21

Coach: Lisa Bluder (21st season at Iowa, 419-223; 37th season overall, 775-366)

Last year: 23-7, 14-4 in Big Ten

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Top returners: G Alexis Sevillian (sr.), F/C Monika Czinano (jr.), G/F McKenna Warnock (soph.), G Gabbie Marshall (soph)

Key newcomers: G Caitlin Clark (fr.), C Sharon Goodman (fr.), G Lauren Jensen (fr.), F Shateah Wetering (fr.)

Schedule highlights: Non-conference schedule (4-5 games) and Big Ten schedule (20 games) still TBA

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

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