Opinion | Iowa women’s basketball has proved it can compete against the best of the best

The Hawkeyes have proved they can win against high-caliber teams. To get to the Final Four, all they need to do is play consistent basketball.


Madyson Gomez

Gabbie Marshall high fives teammates during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Maryland at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, February 2, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 96-82.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

One of Caitlin Clark’s missions as an Iowa women’s basketball player is to take the Hawkeyes to the Final Four.

Iowa hasn’t been to the Final Four since the 1992-93 season, when head coach C. Vivian Stringer led the Hawkeyes to Atlanta. Now, 30 years after the Hawkeyes’ sole trip to the Final Four, they could be poised to return to women’s basketball’s biggest stage. 

The No. 6 Hawkeyes have taken down three top 10 teams this season, including then-No. 10 Iowa State on Dec. 7, then-No. 2 Ohio State on Jan. 23, and No. 8 Maryland on Thursday night.

Iowa dropped 96 points on Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with junior guard Caitlin Clark totaling 42 and fifth-year senior center Monika Czinano contributing 28.

“Our offense, when it flows like that, that’s pretty good,” Clark said.

And the Hawkeyes are playing to this caliber in one of the toughest women’s basketball conferences in the nation.

“This conference isn’t for the weak,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “When you look at all the great talent in here.”

The Big Ten currently has five teams in the AP top 25 — the most of any other conference. Four of those teams are ranked in the top 10: No. 4 Indiana, No. 6 Iowa, No. 8 Maryland, and No. 10 Ohio State.

“I think people are really understanding that Big Ten basketball is really, really good right now,” Clark said. “ I think it’s the best conference in the country, and I think a lot of other people respect it in that way. We have four teams in the top 10.”

Iowa, the reigning Big Ten regular season and tournament champions, is currently second place in the conference with a 10-1 record — just half a game behind 11-1 Indiana. 

Despite the Hawkeyes’ success in the conference, I’m not ready to declare them a lock for the Final Four.

Iowa’s sole game against a 2022 NCAA Final Four team this season was UConn in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament on Nov. 27. The Hawkeyes blew a third-quarter 11-point lead to lose to the Huskies, 86-79, in Portland, Oregon.

The Hawkeyes showed their flaws in that game. They had a mental lapse in the second half, which led to an 11-0 run for the Huskies.

“It was a good battle, but I think we got a little fatigued in the second half,” associate head coach Jan Jensen said on the Hawkeye Radio Network following the game. “We went away from some of the things that were working for us, and [UConn’s] 11-0 run killed us, and we never could quite recover.”

In some cases, Iowa’s mental lapses can be its downfall. In others, the Hawkeyes can break through. Iowa outscored Maryland in all but the third quarter on Thursday night — the Terrapins won the third stanza, 22-18.

“There’s always room to improve,” Clark said “We have practice tomorrow, and there’s a lot of stuff on film that shows you ways to improve.”

At the end of the day, all that matters is the final score. But the Hawkeyes’ mental lapses in big moments can kill their momentum, and sometimes, their game.

Iowa, especially with Clark, is a Final Four-caliber team. But to get there, the Hawkeyes need to play consistent basketball.

“Oh, I think we can go better,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I think we can get better, I really do.”

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