Iowa women’s basketball receives No. 5 seed for NCAA Tournament, will face Central Michigan

The Hawkeyes take on the Chippewas Sunday at 11 a.m. in San Antonio, Texas.


Kate Heston

Iowa’s McKenna Warnock (14) and Iowa Guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrate their win after a semifinal game of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. Iowa, ranked No. 6, took on No. 7 seeded Michigan State in Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday afternoon. The Hawks beat the Spartans, 87-72, advancing the Hawks to take on Maryland Saturday in the Big 10 finals.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s basketball received a No. 5 seed for the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Monday.

The Hawkeyes are slated to play 12th-seeded Central Michigan in their tournament-opener in the River Walk Region of the bracket on Sunday at 11 a.m. in San Antonio, Texas.

“We’re thrilled,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s so fun, this time of year, just waiting for your name to come up there – it’s just dramatic … we’re very happy with a five seed.”

Iowa defied expectations in the Big Ten Tournament last weekend, making the conference title game as a No. 6 seed. Although Iowa lost to Maryland, 84-104, to finish runner-up, Hawkeye head coach Lisa Bluder is excited about the momentum her team will take to Texas.

“Having a day between games would be a luxury compared to what we just did in Indianapolis,” Bluder said. “I think we’re up for it. We just had to play four games in four days — less than four days, actually, so I think we’ll be ready for this.”

Although the Hawkeyes are younger than many teams that will be competing, they are looking to prove themselves in the NCAA tournament.

“I think we kind of started to prove it, especially in the Big Ten Tournament,” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “We increased our seed quite a bit there, and I think that was huge for us, moving up to a five-seed, which is the third-best among Big Ten teams. I think that’s super impressive, and people are starting to know we’re pretty legit.”

With the exception of junior center Monika Czinano, none of Iowa’s starters have NCAA Tournament experience.

“It’s just a completely different atmosphere, I even feel kind of new to it,” Czinano said. “Playing my freshman year,  I was obviously there and experienced it, but I didn’t get a whole lot of on-the-court action. And then this year, I feel like I can’t even compare it to other years, because things are going to be so different. But that’s going to be what makes it so interesting.”

In Iowa’s last NCAA Tournament outing in 2019, the Hawkeyes made it to the Elite Eight. But now, everything is different for Bluder’s team.

“It’s a totally different team than the [Elite Eight] team two years ago,” Clark said. “So many people graduated. Not a lot of people with experience actually playing in the NCAA Tournament, so I think that could also be a positive. We have youth, not a lot of pressure on us, so I’m excited and we’re just looking forward to getting down there and playing.”

The University of Connecticut — the top-ranked team in the Associated Press women’s basketball poll — is the No. 1 seed in the River Walk bracket.

If Iowa and UConn win their first two games, they could meet in the Sweet Sixteen. The Huskies are headed by freshman Paige Bueckers, the Big East Player and Freshman of the Year. Bueckers and Clark – the Big Ten Freshman of the Year – played together in high school, winning two gold medals together on Team USA.

But right now, the Hawkeyes are focusing on their first-round matchup against Central Michigan.

“I think everyone would like to have a Caitlin-Paige matchup,” Bluder said. “But that’s a long ways off, and Central Michigan is going to occupy all my thoughts.”

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