Iowa women look to end 19-year Sweet 16 drought

Ryan Murken

Another season stuffed with success and full of record performances has provided some fun hypothetical questions for Iowa fans.

Is this Iowa's best team of the Lisa Bluder era?

Where does Sam Logic rank among all-time Hawkeye greats?

What about this year's class of seniors? Where do they rank among outgoing classes?

There has been plenty for Hawkeye fans to debate.

What hasn't been up for debate in some time is Bluder's impact on the program.

Iowa has made steady progress in Bluder's 15 seasons at the helm, the evidence coming Monday in the form of an eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

No 18 Iowa snagged the third seed in the Oklahoma City Region on Monday, its highest tournament seeding since 1996.

The Hawkeyes are the only team in the Big Ten and one of only 10 teams in the country to reach the NCAA Tournament the last eight seasons.

"That's something we're proud of," Bluder said. "That shows the stability we've had."

There is plenty for Bluder to be proud of over the past 15 seasons, including 12 NCAA tournament berths.

Only one thing seems to be missing for Bluder and company: an NCAA Tournament winning streak.

The Hawkeyes have never won back-to-back NCAA Tournament games under Bluder, and haven't advanced out of the second round since 1996.

Iowa (24-7) will try to change that starting with Friday's opening round game against No. 14 seed American (24-8) at 1:30 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"We've talked probably more this year than other years about it being a real possibility that we could be a Sweet 16 team," Bluder said. "We know what our path is to get there now and we've got two challenging games to get there."

Iowa is 5-6 in opening round games under Bluder and is one of only 21 teams nationally to advance to the second round in each of the last two tournaments.

Iowa's three senior starters have played in three national tournaments and been to the second round twice.

They say it is time to take that long awaited next step. The goal for Iowa has been snapping the 19-year Sweet 16 drought.

"None of us players have made it to the Sweet 16, our coaches haven't made it to the Sweet 16 and that has been our goal," Senior Melissa Dixon said. "We are very excited to start out at home and hopefully achieve that."

At Monday's selection show viewing, Bluder admitted that she had researched potential second-round matchups. The Hawkeyes saw the path on Monday that begins with American and could include a meeting with sixth-seeded Washington (23-9) or No. 11 seed Miami (19-12).

The long-time coach also said the Sweet 16 talk hasn't been a secret this season.

"It is something that we want to have happen and if you want to have it happen you have to believe it, you have to talk about it and it has to be a part of you," Bluder said. "We've talked about it from the beginning."

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.