IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Hawkeyes are no longer on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. They’re on the outside trying to poke their way in.
ESPN’s Charlie Creme listed Iowa as one of the “First Four Out” in his latest bracketology, released Monday. But the Hawkeyes still have the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis to improve their resume.
So in advance of Iowa’s make-it-or-break-it games a few hundred miles east, we asked the 13 Big Ten women’s basketball head coaches not named Lisa Bluder a simple question: Is Iowa an NCAA Tournament team?
Of course, they all said “yes” in some variation — that’s not news. But their reasons why? More intriguing.
Several discussed Iowa’s response to losing Tania Davis. Some mentioned Iowa’s strength of schedule, particularly in the nonconference slate.
Take a look for yourself.
Do you think Iowa is an NCAA Tournament team?
Brenda Frese, Maryland
“No question. You have to look at the body of their work. I think Lisa and her staff have done a tremendous job when you talk about all the young players in the fold. Playing them, watching them on film, they have continued to grow all season long.”
Teri Moren, Indiana
“You know what? I do. … I don't think that the Big Ten gets the respect that it certainly deserves in terms of the outside perspective in women’s basketball, but particularly in looking at the Big Ten, because it is an incredible league. And Lisa has done a tremendous job. That’s a tremendous basketball team. They’re very difficult to guard. Probably in all of our prep that we had to do for the Big Ten, excluding Maryland and Ohio State, by far the most difficult team to try to simulate on the floor.”
Kevin McGuff, Ohio State
“They’re obviously fighting for a lot. They should be an NCAA Tournament team. I haven't looked closely enough at their RPI or strength of schedule — I don't know that. But when I look at them, they look like an NCAA Tournament team to me and I know they’re going to be heading into the Big Ten Tournament to make sure they can prove it.”
Kim Barnes Arico, Michigan
“I do think they’re an NCAA team. … For them to be able to respond the way they did (after losing Davis) was incredible. I think everybody just stepped up and everybody did a little bit more for their team and they didn't miss a beat. Obviously it changes them, but I was really, really impressed with the way that they have been able to move forward and really not hang their head and really continue to play and continue to impress.”
Joe McKeown, Northwestern
“I think we’re both fighting for our NCAA lives. … I think it’s a league that, with 14 teams, supports multiple numbers. And then whoever wins our game, obviously, is going to play the No. 1 seed. So I think there are great opportunities for both of us. And I know Iowa, like us, went out and played people in nonconference, so I think we’re both going to play with a chip on our shoulder Thursday.”
Matt Bollant, Illinois
“I think they’re certainly a team on the bubble and obviously they’ve got a big game with Northwestern first. I think they’ve got a lot of quality wins, so they should be.”
C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers
“Yes, Iowa is very clearly an NCAA team. I’m not saying that just because my roots are in Iowa, but truly, they really are.”
Marlene Stollings, Minnesota
“I think they have a shot, certainly. They’ve done a lot of nice things, especially absorbing the injury to Tania Davis. But I think when you look at the conference as a whole, there are a lot of people that are in that situation just like them. But specifically to Iowa, I do think have a solid chance. I’m sure they would agree they’ve got to do some work here in the tournament to make them feel more comfortable with that."
Jonathan Tsipis, Wisconsin
“We hope we can get in any team that’s played their type of nonconference schedule. I think with Iowa, the committee I think will take into account how they have really excelled and continued to play at a high level after the Tania Davis injury. They’re a young team; I think that’s part of it. They have a good RPI. They challenge themselves in the nonconference, obviously, with the inner-state rivalry as well as some really good neutral-site games.”
Sharon Versyp, Purdue
“I think the Big Ten ... there’s a lot of teams on the bubble and I just think with how our teams are playing, we just need to get a little more respect and hopefully get six or seven teams in.”
Associate head coach Amaka Agugua, Michigan State
“They’re a team that’s really hard to play because they’re so versatile and they run that read-and-react and you’ve got to be able to guard versatile kids. … I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it in the tournament and do well.”
Coquese Washington, Penn State
“I think Iowa did a fantastic job of retooling and rebounding from the injury that Tania Davis suffered in the Michigan game. Following that game, they were still very competitive and I know their freshman (Kathleen Doyle) played a lot more minutes and she played very well for them. And they’ve got (Megan) Gustafson and they’ve got (Ally) Disterhoft, who are leading them with a great inside-outside punch. I think they’re a team that can make a run in the tournament because they’ve got a lot of good pieces.”
Amy Williams, Nebraska
“There are a lot of teams in our league that are deserving of being in the NCAA Tournament, and I think that this Big Ten Tournament is going to really reveal a lot about who’s going to get that opportunity.”
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.