Coach Lisa Bluder’s crew made it to the championship of the Big Ten Tournament March 13th. The Hawkeyes used this tourney run to springboard to a 5 seed in the Big Dance against 12th seeded Central Michigan. This first round game will be played this Sunday at 11am Central on ESPN. The Hawkeyes are 18-9 so far and the Chippewas sit at 18-8. All of the women’s tournament takes place in the San Antonio, Texas area. The Hawkeyes are in the River Walk region. The 1 seed in this region is the UCONN Huskies; basketball royalty.
The Hawkeyes and Chippewas will tip off at 11am CT on Sunday, the first day of the women’s tournament. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Central Michigan got an automatic bid by winning the MAC championship. The Chippewas played two Big Ten opponents this season, losing to both. Michigan beat the Chippewas 93-75 and Michigan State beat them 79-70. This is a game the Hawkeyes should win, but a) the 5/12 matchup is a notorious upset, and b) Central Michigan routinely plays Big Ten schools, they won’t be intimidated.
Central Michigan is giving up 77.9 points and allowing 73.8. The Chippewas play at a slower pace than the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes will want to try to speed the game up. Central Michigan has two guards whose numbers are pretty gaudy. 5’6” senior guard Micaela Kelly averages 23.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, while 5’7” senior guard Molly Davis’ line is 20.9 / 4.6 / 3.8. That’s a pretty potent 1-2 punch.
Rounding out their third guard spot Central Michigan has 5’9” senior guard Maddy Watters; she is averaging 9.6 points and shooting a tremendous 44% from three point range. Having an experienced backcourt come NCAA tournament time is always a benefit. The Chippewas start 6’0” forward Jahari Smith and 6’1” center Kyra Russell. Both players put up solid numbers in scoring and rebounding. The Hawkeyes should be able to advance past this first game with getting the ball inside to Monika Czinano and going inside/out to Caitlin Clark, McKenna Warnock, and Gabbie Marshall.
Kentucky #4 / Idaho State #13 with UCONN in the Sweet 16!
If the Hawkeyes advance they will face the winner of the Kentucky/Idaho State game. Winning this, it’s fun to look down the road in the Dance, and the Hawks would be paired up against UCONN and Paige Bueckers. Now that would be quite the matchup. Two freshman stars. Bueckers has gotten more attention than she has merited, and she’s amazing, compared to Caitlin Clark, who has not gotten the national respect she deserves.
Here’s a look at the complete bracket for this year’s tournament.
Let’s go Hawks!