Opinion | Iowa women’s basketball is just getting started

With all five starters returning next season, Iowa women’s basketball will get better.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark dribbles toward the basket during the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball championship against No. 4 Kentucky on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at the Bill Greehey Arena at Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 86-72.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

SAN ANTONIO — It was a Cinderella story finish for Iowa women’s basketball in the 2020-21 season.

In November, after losing 2020 Big Ten Player of the Year Kathleen Doyle, the Hawkeyes were not even projected to be in the NCAA Tournament field.

But against all odds, the young Hawkeye lineup, consisting of four first-year starters, pieced together a 15-8 regular season and rallied its way to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament.

After grabbing the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Iowa bounced No. 12 Central Michigan and No. 4 Kentucky out of contention before meeting No. 1 UConn in the Sweet 16.

UConn women’s basketball has been flashing its dominance since 2006, as it has gotten to the Elite Eight 15 consecutive times. It would have been a miracle if the Hawkeyes pulled off a win.

Although the Hawkeyes fell, 92-72, in the Sweet 16, it’s just the beginning for the young team.

“The reason I came to Iowa is because I wanted to do something special,” freshman point guard Caitlin Clark said. “I think more and more people are starting to kind of go that route. I think that’s important, especially this being my home state, this is where I wanted to go. I know I’m in the right place. This season was truly special.”

Clark, a former five-star recruit for the Hawkeyes, dominated the court in her first season as a Hawkeye. She finished her freshman year leading Division I Women’s Basketball in points (799), points per game (26.8), assists (209), and field goals made (259).

Junior center Monika Czinano ended the season at the top of the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 66.9 percent from the field.

“We have other people to this puzzle,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “That’s what’s so fun, is we have the anchors in Caitlin and Monika, but we’ve got a lot of good pieces around that puzzle, too.”

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Every single piece of the puzzle is returning for the 2021-22 season. After Iowa came into the 2020-21 season with one experienced starter, Iowa returns its entire starting five of Czinano, Clark, guards Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall, and forward McKenna Warnock.

Off the bench, junior Tomi Taiwo has been pivotal for the Hawkeyes defense, and has been one of the only bench players to get significant minutes in the NCAA Tournament for her defensive skills. Her return next season will boost Iowa’s ailing defense, which averaged almost 80 points per game.

“Having this offseason is going to be so important for us,” Clark said. “Especially returning our whole starting five and a solid bench as well, just to improve in every single area that kind of got exploited this season. I’m excited. We’re all going to get back to work, I know we are going to work super hard. I think the future is super bright.”

With all five starters returning, expect Iowa women’s basketball to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

“The expectations should be extremely high,” Bluder said. “I mean, nobody else expected much of our team this year, but we did. We’re the most important people in that locker room that believed in each other, knew that we could have a special year. Moving forward, that’s just going to get better and better.

“Our goal is we want to be in a Final Four. We want to take Iowa back to a Final Four.”