‘Why not us?’: Inside the mentality that’s taken Iowa women’s basketball through the NCAA Tournament

The Hawkeyes have focused on one recurring mantra throughout their NCAA Tournament run: why not us?


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

The Iowa women’s basketball team celebrates after a 2023 NCAA women’s Final Four game between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Iowa at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, March 31, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gamecocks, 77-73, to advance to the National Championship Game.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

DALLAS — Throughout the Hawkeyes’ NCAA Tournament run, Iowa women’s basketball has a recurring manta: Why not us?

Head coach Lisa Bluder came up with the phrase — offhandedly — one day, and the Hawkeyes took off running.

“You don’t know how close you are to finishing — you probably know how close you are to finishing the marathon when you hit the wall, but there’s so many times that you’re about to get that sale, or you’re about to get something, and you just give up,” Bluder said. “So, we talk a lot about that, like we’re not giving up. Just keep going. Keep going. Why not us? Why not us be the people that are at the top of the ladder at the end?”

And that mantra has taken them all the way through to the national championship game.

Iowa has taken down 15th-seeded Southeastern Louisiana, 10th seeded Georgia, sixth-seeded Colorado, and fifth-seeded Louisville throughout their NCAA Tournament run.

And the secret to their success is looking at every single team as equals — no matter their record or seed in the tournament.

“I’ve just been kind of viewing every team we go against, I mean, we’re the same,” fifth-year senior center Monika Czinano said. “We’re a bunch of college kids trying to do our best. We’re level on this playing field. so I think that’s been kind of my mentality, this whole thing but I think just the confidence why not us like why not? There’s no reason it can’t be.”

The victory that most embodies the Hawkeyes’ “Why not us?” mentality, however, is obvious: Iowa’s victory over then-undefeated defending champion South Carolina on Friday night in the Final Four.

South Carolina was favored by 11.5 points heading into the matchup and a formidable opponent — the Gamecocks allowed just 51.1 points per game and had seven players over 6-foot-2.

But the Hawkeyes were the David that took down the Gamecocks’ Goliath. Iowa broke South Carolina’s 42-game win streak and crushed the Gamecocks’ hope of a perfect, 38-0 season.

“We might have been the only people believing the Hawks could pull this one out, but that belief we have in each other just instills confidence,” Czinano said.

Iowa City-based company Raygun made a ‘Why not us?’ t-shirt after Bluder’s comments,  commemorating the Hawkeyes’ run through the NCAA Tournament

“Raygun really ran with that and they’ve been making t-shirts out of it,” senior guard Kate Martin said. “So, it’s kind of cool to see.”

Now, the Hawkeyes will appear in their first national championship game in program history on Sunday. Iowa will take on LSU at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., and the game will air on ABC.

“Why does it have to be the same teams winning it year after year?,” Martin said. “I think the parity in this league has been amazing this year, and there’s been upsets, there’s been whatever in this women’s March Madness tournament, and it’s been really fun to see. And why not a team from Iowa, why not a bunch of girls who live in Iowa City?”