Iowa women’s basketball aiming to make waves in stacked Big Ten

The Hawkeyes lost three starters last season, but are looking to rebound with the addition of talented recruits.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder calls a formation during a women’s basketball match between Iowa and Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers, 91-85, in double overtime.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Last year, the Big Ten Conference proved to be one of the deepest in the country. That trend is likely to continue in 2020-21,  as a lot of teams around the conference are set to return a ton of talent.

There is no clear top team, with the usual favorite, Maryland, losing several of its best players via transfer portal and graduation. Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder sees a group of talented teams with a chance to win the conference.

“It’s more competitive this year because of the experience level of the teams, and what is returning from last year,” head coach Lisa Bluder said.

In ESPN’s Way-Too-Early rankings from late September, five teams from the Big Ten cracked the Top 25 – tying the Pac-12 and SEC for the most in the country. Although those conferences may have more top-10 teams, the Big Ten could end up being the deepest of all of them.

Iowa finds itself in a situation similar to that of 2019. At that time, Iowa had to replace National Player of the Year Megan Gustafson.

This year, the Hawkeyes are replacing do-it-all player Kathleen Doyle, who won Big Ten Player Year last season. Also gone are forward Amanda Ollinger and sharpshooter Makenzie Meyer, meaning Iowa will be making changes across the board.

Freshman Caitlin Clark – ranked No. 4 nationally in her recruiting class – should have her say on offense. Meanwhile, Clark’s fellow freshman, center Sharon Goodman, will look to make an impact on the interior.

Iowa will also have the ability to build around returners like Alexis Sevillian, Monika Czinano, Gabbie Marshall, and Tomi Taiwo.

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The Hawkeyes will only get five non-conference games before the Big Ten season begins. However, the talent and unity of the group could see the Hawkeyes ascend to the upper part of the Big Ten once again.

“We are still wanting to be at the very top of the Big Ten,” Bluder said. “We might not be picked that way in the preseason, but it doesn’t change in our minds.”

Looking at some of the top teams in the conference, none appear to be clear final four contenders.

Maryland will most likely be the favorite. However, it could take the Terrapins some time to acclimate this season. Maryland lost Shakira Austin, but the team returns Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Ashley Owusu.

Meanwhile, Northwestern brings back much of their talent, including star player Lindsey Pulliam.

Indiana is in a similar position, as nearly every Hoosier starter from 2019-20 will be back for 2020-21.

Michigan and Michigan State are poised to make the jump from middle-of-the-road Big Ten teams, to the conference’s upper echelon as both teams will bring back the majority of their 2019-20 rosters this season.

Ohio State finished strong last season and ousted the Hawkeyes in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. But the Buckeyes will have work to do to replace several players including transfer Kiersten Bell. A good freshmen class, along with a conference player of the year candidate in Dorka Juhasz, will help the team make up for its losses.

The odds are certainly stacked against the Hawkeyes in 2020-21, but should their new pieces mesh, Iowa could find itself right back at the top of the Big Ten Conference.

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