I have to admit something, Hawk fans. In watching the Duke/Colorado game I was hoping for Colorado to win. Statistically (and I’m no math person) at first glance you would rather play a six seed than a three. After watching some video and delving a little deeper into Colorado’s team, I’m a bit more nervous than I was just a few days ago. They are a nice-looking squad with some excellent pieces. The Buffaloes are 25-8 on the year and coming off an overtime win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What first stands out to me is Colorado has two excellent posts. Both #11 Quay Miller and #21 Aaronnette Vonleh are 6’3” transfer players who take up space and can move. That’s a nice combination. Miller, in my opinion, is a phenomenal player. Skill-wise I like her better than Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes (who I also think is fantastic) because Miller is able to extend her game to the three point line.
Miller is also sneaky-quick off the bounce.
Colorado runs what could already be considered an old-school approach with a 3 out (guards/perimeter), 2 in (posts/centers) motion offense. The two work very well together as they will look high-low to each other, Miller can put the ball on the floor and drive, and they run a nice pick and roll from the high post with their ultra-fast point guard (more on her later). Here is an example of a nice high-low pass from Miller to Vonleh.
Colorado has two other players who impress me, but Miller and Vonleh are their two leading scorers and rebounders. As they go, the Buffs go. The biggest and best way for the Hawks to defend this combination is to make sure we have a great deal of ball pressure on the perimeter (unobstructed passes into the post are defense killers) and our post defenders must play defense with their feet before the pass. Playing defense in the post after the catch will lead to fouls and significant trouble. Iowa can’t afford for Monika Czinano to pick up cheap fouls.
The next player that jumps off the screen is point guard Jaylyn Sherrod (#00). Caitlin Clark is one of the fastest players I’ve seen with the ball, but Sherrod may be faster. She can be a nightmare in transition. Here Duke was trying to apply full-court pressure. Nope.
One pass, a diagonal cut, and Sherrod is moving at cartoon-like speed. Iowa is not a pressing team, but it will be paramount to get back on defense and stop the ball. Sherrod is a stat-sheet stuffer averaging 11.3 ppg, 3.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. She is fun to watch if you are a casual fan. As a non-casual fan she definitely is a threat to our Hawkeye happiness.
Colorado’s best shooter is 5’11” junior guard Frida Formann (#3). Formann is from Denmark and can shoot the basketball. She connects on 39% of her three point shots and she’s a 91% free throw shooter. The Buffaloes run a nice high pick and roll action where Sherrod will get a high ball screen and looks to turn the corner, hit the roller, or kick out to a wide open Formann. The Hawks will need to get a hand in her face and box out; Miller and Vonleh get a few rebounds a game just based on the space they take up in the lane.
On the season Colorado is shooting 35% from three and allowing 30% shooting from distance. In Colorado’s eight losses, the Buffs are shooting 21% (27-128) from beyond the arc and allowing 37% (52-142). I like those odds, although as a lifelong Hawkeye fan, how many times have we seen a career shooting night from someone who ordinarily can’t hit the water throwing the ball out of a boat? Thankfully this is more common on the men’s side, but I knocked on wood anyway (I really did).
Colorado seems susceptible in the post if you attack with a player who can spin, put the ball on the floor and get around her defender. That is more Hannah Stuelke’s game than Monika Czinano’s, but Iowa’s spacing is typically fantastic and the Hawks do an excellent job of swinging the basketball and getting quality post entries where Monika doesn’t need to dribble anyway. Caitlin Clark gets praise for her shooting and scoring, but she would take a 10 point, 25 assist win in a heartbeat.
For the Hawkeyes it is a given that we need good to excellent games out of both Clark and Czinano. Gabbie Marshall’s shooting will be important (very, very important), and I think McKenna Warnock will be tasked with defending Quay Miller. Iowa will need great rebounding from Czinano, Stuelke, and Warnock. My favorite player, Kate Martin, is going to have a good game. She is a player who does so many little things well. When she is aggressive with the ball and making plays, her game is even better. I think that Kate is going to show up. Hannah Stuelke’s health will be the biggest X factor in this ballgame. The Hawks will need her to rebound and spell Czinano.
This season has been so much fun. I attended my first-ever Iowa women’s game in person at the Big Ten Championship. I’m not ready for this season to end. There would be no shame in losing to this Colorado team; they are talented, but let’s not stop here, Coach Bluder and company. Like always, it’s great to be a Hawkeye! Let’s go, Hawks! Let’s go, Hawks! Let’s go, Hawks!