Iowa women’s basketball hopes for long stay in San Antonio

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the NCAA to move the women’s basketball tournament to only one location in 2021.


Kate Heston

Iowa Guard Caitlin Clark (22) charges to the basket during a second round game of the Big 10 women’s basketball tournament. Iowa, ranked #6, took on #11 Purdue in Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Wednesday night. The Hawkeyes beat the Boilermakers, 83-72, advancing the Hawks to take on Rutgers Thursday night in the Big 10 quarterfinals.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

The 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament looks different this year.

Iowa captured a No. 5 seed in the River Walk Region of the NCAA Tournament bracket and plays in the first game of the tournament on Sunday at 11 a.m. on ESPN. Iowa will match up against No. 12 seed Central Michigan in the round of 64 in the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The 11 a.m. game is a stark contrast from Iowa’s multiple 9 p.m. games in the Big Ten Tournament, but head coach Lisa Bluder welcomes the early tipoff.

“We were getting back to the hotel at midnight,” Bluder said. “And then you have to eat and unwind and get to bed. That’s not easy. So now we’re going to the other extreme, right, but … what you like about it is that you’re not sitting around all day, you play your game, and hopefully get the win.”

The entire tournament is being held in the San Antonio area — including courts in San Marcos and Austin — instead of the usual first and second-round regional areas to reduce travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although it was a pandemic-induced change, Bluder has never liked the regional areas in the first place.

“I’m excited that it’s all on neutral courts,” Bluder said. “I’ve always believed that that’s the way the NCAA Tournament should be played.”

But that means the Hawkeyes are prepping for multiple weeks sequestered in their San Antonio hotel rooms. Iowa left for the Lone Star State Wednesday and will stay there as long as it is in the tournament.

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NCAA COVID-19 protocols dictate every player has their own room. The Hawkeyes will have an entire floor to themselves and will need to test and quarantine on arrival. Even after the quarantine period, players will only be able to leave for three reasons: COVID-19 testing, practice, and games.

“There’s not much we’ll be able to do,” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “It’s just go to the court or be in your room.”

Being alone in a hotel room will bring a lot of downtime, but with no spring break this year, the Hawkeyes are staying busy with schoolwork.

“I welcome that [downtime],” junior center Monika Czinano said. “Coming off of a four-game, four-day stretch … but as hard as it is, school is still going on for us. We’re still in classes, as hard as it is to focus, trying to get ahead on that, talking to professors. But outside of that, it’s such a weird time, because usually when we go to the NCAA Tournament, we can walk around outside and explore the area. This time, we’re not able to do that, so I think definitely I’ll bring some books.”

No matter the amount of schoolwork or seclusion the Hawkeyes need to go through, they’re hoping to stay until the National Championship game on April 4. But in the interest of keeping baggage light, they’re only bringing about a week’s worth of clothes.

“I’m going to tell the women, ‘Pack all your underwear and hope there’s laundromats,’” Bluder said. “I don’t think you have to pack for a month. You pack for a week and do laundry somewhere.”