IOWA CITY — Either way, it’s a tricky draw.
Four teams earned double-byes in the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament this week in Indianapolis. One of them is guaranteed to face a 20-win team in its opener.
The No. 2 seed, 11th-ranked Iowa (23-6) draws the winner of Minnesota and Indiana in the quarterfinals.
The seventh-seeded Gophers (20-9) and the 10-seed Hoosiers (19-11) tip off in a second-round game at 5:30 p.m. (Iowa time) Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse; the winner advances to face the Hawkeyes 24 hours later.
“We’re going to have our hands full with either of them,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference Monday.
“With Minnesota, Kenisha Bell is one of the best players in the conference. With Indiana, we just saw what they are capable of doing.”
Indiana spoiled the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten title hopes in the third-to-last game of the season, rallying from a 14-point deficit for a 75-73 victory Feb. 21.
“Hopefully we have some momentum right now,” said Indiana Coach Teri Moren, whose team has won two of its last three games, including a rout of Purdue to end the regular season. “I think the field is wide open. The parity in this league has been incredible.”
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Minnesota is the most dangerous team outside the top four seeds. The Gophers won seven of their last nine games to follow a 2-7 Big Ten start.
“Even when we were going through a rough time, the kids were working,” first-year Minnesota coach Lindsay Whalen said. “They were getting up extra shots. It all comes down to attention to detail. If the kids kept doing the work, things were going to turn around.
“They didn’t quit. They could have folded the tent and played out the season, and that would have been the easy thing to do. But they kept fighting.”
Iowa defeated the Gophers 81-63 on Jan. 14 in Minneapolis, rallying from an eight-point deficit with a 49-23 second half. The Gophers beat the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten quarterfinals last year despite 48 points from Megan Gustafson.
Bluder said the key to a deep run this weekend is limiting mistakes.
“We can’t afford careless turnovers,” she said. “We need to value the ball.
“And it comes down to who’s putting the ball in the hole this time of year.”
If the Hawkeyes win Friday, their semifinal is 6:30 p.m. (Iowa time) Saturday. The title game is 5 p.m. Sunday.
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