Iowa women join elite company in Oklahoma City

Ryan Murken

Lisa Bluder admitted she's had a fairly narrow focus the past few days.

The Iowa coach hasn't strayed much from her preparation for fifth-ranked Baylor in Friday's NCAA Tournament regional semifinal at 6:30 p.m. at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Bluder said Tuesday she doesn't know a lot right now about the other two teams in the field.

That doesn't mean Bluder isn't aware of the pedigree of the programs taking part in the Oklahoma City Regional this weekend.

"When you look at the three other coaches I'm the only one that hasn't been to a Final Four," Bluder said Tuesday. "I know that."

No. 18 Iowa (26-7) has some impressive company in its first Sweet 16 trip since 1996.

The field at this weekend's Oklahoma City regional includes some of college basketball's top powers.

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Traditional heavyweights Notre Dame, Baylor and Stanford have combined for five national titles and 10 championship game appearances in their histories.

One of those three teams has been in the title game in four of the last five seasons and the three coaches at those schools have won a combined 1,933 games leading their current programs.

"I know that this is a very experienced group with coaches," Bluder said. "It's a group that has been to the Final Four numbers of times and traditionally these have been great basketball programs."

The Oklahoma City Region is one of two regions in this year's tournament along with Greensboro that saw each of the top-four seeds advance to the Sweet 16.

Oklahoma City's field features some of the most talented individuals as prestigious programs in the country.

Iowa is one of only 10 teams in the country to reach the NCAA Tournament each of the past eight seasons.

Three of those teams join Iowa in Oklahoma City this weekend.

Baylor is making its 12th straight tournament appearance under head coach Kim Mulkey and won a pair of national titles during that stretch.

Fourth-seeded Stanford is appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 28th straight year under long-time coach Tara VanDerveer, and has reached the Sweet 16 in 22 of those trips.

The Cardinal won national titles in 1990 and 1992 and reached the championship game in both 2008 and 2010.

Top-seeded Notre Dame has reached the national title game three of the last four years, and won the 2001 title under Muffett McGraw.

Iowa understands the storied programs it faces this weekend, but like its head coach, is mostly worried about its own play.

"I think we have to just do what we have been doing all year which is stick to playing Iowa basketball," senior Bethany Doolittle said. "We have to be unselfish, work our offense and work our defense and listen to our coaches and follow our scouting report and we'll be fine."

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