Opinion | Toasting the Iowa women’s basketball team’s historic season

While the Hawkeyes didn’t win a national championship on Sunday, they still had a historic season.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder cuts down the net after a victory over No.5 Louisville at the 2023 NCAA Elite Eight women’s basketball game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA on Sunday, March 26, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cardinals, 97-83.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

DALLAS — Iowa women’s basketball didn’t win a national championship on Sunday night. 

But the Hawkeyes’ 2022-23 season was still the most impressive the program had ever seen.

Not only did the Hawkeyes make their first Final Four in 30 years, but Iowa also took down South Carolina and its 42-game win streak — something nobody expected them to do.

The Gamecocks were undefeated, the defending champions, and an 11.5-point favorite over the Hawkeyes.

But the Hawkeyes beat the odds.

“Why does it have to be the same teams winning it year after year?,” senior Kate Martin said on Saturday. “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.”

Iowa had a historic season — a program-first preseason No. 4 ranking, second consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship, and a No. 2 ranking in the regular season, and momentous crowds. It was all capped by its first appearance in the national championship game in program history. 

With a 31-7 mark this season, the Hawkeyes also broke the program record for wins in a season.

And with Caitlin Clark, the national player of the year, on their squad, the Hawkeyes drew more people to women’s basketball throughout the season. Over 5.5 million people tuned into Iowa’s game against South Carolina on Friday — exceeding NBA and college football numbers.

“Once people really turn on the TV or come and sit in the seat, they see how good the product is and how fun the game is,” Clark said. “Our team plays it the right way. They play basketball the right way.”

The Hawkeyes’ season was nothing short of historic in many ways. And while Iowa couldn’t take home the national title, the Hawkeyes still have a lot to be proud of.

“I’m just so proud of what this team has done, despite adversity,” senior Monika Czinano said. “Throughout the entire season, we’ve come out and given it our all. That’s all you can do in any given situation is put your heart into it and believe, and we did that.”

Now, the Hawkeyes will have to move on without two of their most crucial starters. Forward McKenna Warnock and center Monika Czinano — the Hawkeyes’ two leading scorers behind Clark — are leaving the program.

Warnock, Czinano, Clark, and seniors Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall started 92 games together over the last three years — the longest streak in Division I history.

“I think, more than anything, we’re losing two seniors that gave their heart and soul to this program,” Clark said. “ I think they set a really good example for other people that we have in that locker room of what it takes to be able to play at this level, on this stage. I’m really grateful that that’s what they did, because we have to bring people along and bring people up to get back to this point.”

With Martin and Marshall returning for a fifth season, the Hawkeyes will retain 68 percent of their scoring.

If the 2023-24 roster stays as is, expect freshman forward Hannah Stuelke and sophomore center Addison O’Grady to break into the starting lineup.

Stuelke was first off the bench for the Hawkeyes this season, averaging 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 12 minutes per game. O’Grady played less than Stuelke, with just two points and 1.4 rebounds in 32 games this season.

While there has been talk about bringing in a more experienced post player to mirror Clark, Bluder can’t go portaling unless someone on the roster decides to leave. With two recruits coming in for 2023-24, Bluder’s scholarship counter is full at 15.

But no matter who’s on the roster, the Hawkeyes don’t plan to make this Final Four appearance a one-time thing.

“This is our goal every single year,” Clark said. “We’re not just going to be satisfied with making it here one time.”