Let’s get this out of the way. We are going to fast forward to April 2nd, 2023. Black and gold confetti falls to the floor of American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. One Shining Moment is blaring and we cut to the scene where Lisa Bluder and Caitlin Clark are cutting down the nets. Ok, hold on. Let’s pump the brakes a little bit here.
The Hawkeyes tip off the season tonight at 8:30pm (B1G+) ranked fourth in the country. If that seems high, it probably is. Iowa is coming off of a year where they won a regular season and B1G Tournament championship. Everyone remembers how you do in the Big Dance. The Hawks’ season came crashing down with a 62-64 home loss to Creighton. This Hawkeye team is an extremely veteran group. Coach Lisa Bluder will have the same starting unit for the third consecutive season. This is unheard of in college sports. I am confident Iowa will have a terrific season. If the Hawkeyes stay healthy good things will come. How this team does in late March/early April will determine how special this time will be.
First of all we can start with The Franchise. I’m not even going to bore you with Caitlin Clark’s stats or accolades. She has elevated this Iowa team and women’s basketball. Clark is often Tweeted about by the best men’s and women’s players in the game. I’m amazed at what she has done and her game. A few things she can improve upon. Taking care of the basketball, defense, and playing through fouls. Clark is an assist machine. She is a very good, willing passer. Sometimes she tries to do too much. Every player in the game of basketball can improve their on ball and off ball defense; Clark is no different. As a team the Hawkeyes need to play better defense. Our best player also has to be our best defender. Finally, if I’m coaching against Iowa I would have my players grab, hit, set physical screens and basically beat Clark up (all within the rules, of course). At times in the past she has gotten frustrated with officials and herself. She will need to play through this.
When Monika Czinano elected to come back this year the expectations shot through the roof. Czinano has led the NCAA in field goal percentage the last two years. She is one of the most efficient low post scorers I’ve ever seen. Iowa rounds out their starting lineup with Gabbie Marshall, McKenna Warnock, and Kate Martin. Each player brings something different to the table. Marshall has quick hands, Warnock is a scrappy 6’1” rebounder and shooter, and Kate Martin brings a toughness/lunch pail mentality.
The Hawks’ depth took a bit of a hit when junior Kylie Feuerbach was deemed out for the season. The impact of this was lessened when Iowa got a portal transfer from Central Michigan. Molly Davis is a 5’7” point guard who can play. Iowa faced her two years ago in the NCAA tournament. She is an excellent player who will play a huge role this year on both ends of the court.
Freshman Hannah Stuelke (6’2”) has received high praise from Coach Bluder. It sounds like she will be in Iowa’s rotation.
It will be important for Sharon Goodman (6’3”) and Addison O’Grady (6’4”) to develop in the post. After Czinano Iowa doesn’t have a ton of depth/experience from the center position. An injury or foul trouble for Monika Czinano would very much change how this Hawkeye team plays.
Iowa tips it off tonight against Southern. Last year the Jaguars were 14-17. They aren’t overly big, they aren’t great rebounders or shooters. They averaged only 59.4 points per game last year and shot just 25% from 3 and 60% from the free throw line. Southern’s best returning player is Genovea Johnson (5’8”), a senior guard who averaged 11.4 points per game last year. She did not make a three point basket. She looks more to penetrate. It’s a cliche but Iowa will be competing against itself tonight. This team could accomplish great, great things. The success of this team will ultimately come down to getting defensive stops and rebounding. That’s the focus. This team will blow some teams out. In those games each defensive possession has to be played like it’s late March.
Ok, Hawks, one at a time. For us fans? Let’s cut down some nets. As always, Go Hawks!