The Iowa Women’s Basketball team begins their season tonight as they host Oral Roberts. The Hawkeyes start the season ranked #13 in the initial AP Top 25 rankings and will look to build upon last year’s 25-8 finish which ended with a first round NCAA Tournament loss against Creighton, where Iowa had received an at-large bid and was the sixth seed in their region.
For 2018-19, head coach Lisa Bluder, beginning her 19th year at Iowa, returns six of the top seven scorers from last year’s team leading to some big expectations. The top returner is senior forward Megan Gustafson. All Gustafson did last year was win the Big Ten Player of the Year award as she averaged 25.7 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. The most amazing thing is that the 6’3” Gustafson finished last season in the top nine in the country in NINE different statistical categories:
- Points/Game (1st) - 25.7
- Field Goal % (1st) - 67.1%
- Field Goals Made (1st) - 320
- Double-Doubles (3rd) - 28
- Total Points (3rd) - 823
- Defensive Rebounds/Game (4th) - 9.0
- Total Rebounds/Game (5th) - 12.8
- Total Rebounds (6th) - 411
- Free Throws Made (9th) - 183
This isn’t just a Megan Gustafson appreciation post (though she certainly deserves one), there are a number of other key players that will decide just how successful the Hawkeyes are this year, perhaps none more important that senior guard Tania Davis. While Gustafson gets the accolades and her fair share of the points, the diminutive Davis is the engine that makes the car go. At only 5’3”, Davis, from Flint, Michigan, is coming back from her second ACL injury that has cost her parts of the past two seasons.
When healthy, Davis and fellow guards, juniors Kathleen Doyle and Mackenzie Meyer, and sophomore Alexis Sevillian, set the pace for the offense. After Davis went down with an injury last year in mid December, Doyle and Meyer took over at the guard spots and each contributed at least ten points per game and had over 100 assists on the season (Doyle with 199, she is currently suffering from a broken hand, however, an is expected to miss about six weeks). All the guards have three-point shooting ability so they can really spread the court and make it hard for teams to double and triple team Gustafson.
In the post, senior Hannah Stewart, junior Amanda Ollinger, and freshman Monika Czinano look to get lots of playing time. Stewart averaged just over seven points a game last year and pulled down 145 rebounds. Ollinger is battling some early season injuries but should be available soon. She started five games last year and pulled down 127 boards. The 6’3” Czinano comes to the Hawkeyes as an all-stater out of Minnesota.
While the non-conference schedule is generally weak with games against teams like North Carolina Central and IUPUI, the Hawkeyes will certainly have a big test in late November as they travel to Notre Dame to play the top ranked Irish in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Conference play begins December 30th as the Hawkeyes travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State. Iowa is predicted to finish second in the conference behind defending champion Maryland who is returning four starters from last years 26-8 squad. The two teams are pretty equal and the conference will most likely come down to which team stays the most healthy.