IOWA CITY, Ia. — The women's NCAA Tournament field was unveiled Monday night, and for the second season in a row, the Iowa Hawkeyes fell short. They will host Missouri State (16-14, 12-6 Missouri Valley) in the first round of WNIT this Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game time hasn't been announced yet.
Penn State, Indiana and Michigan will also represent the Big Ten in the WNIT.
It wasn't a surprise that Iowa missed out on the Big Dance. It was on the outside looking in since it lost in double overtime at Indiana on Feb. 22. But the Hawkeyes were the only team from Iowa to not make the tournament.
And that was certainly surprising.
Drake, the Missouri Valley champion, earned an automatic bid as the No. 10 seed in the Lexington, Kent., region. Iowa State, which boasted wins at Texas and against West Virginia and Kansas State, earned the No. 9 seed in the Bridgeport, Conn., region, with a possible second-round game against UConn. Northern Iowa, which boasted a win against Kansas State and nearly won the MVC tournament, got the No. 10 seed in the Oklahoma City, Okla., region.
Iowa went 2-1 against those three. It lost 81-76 at Drake on Dec. 18; it beat Iowa State 88-76 on Dec. 7; and it cold-cocked UNI 88-39 on Dec. 4. The Hawkeyes were No. 64 in RPI. Iowa State was 60, Drake was 26 and UNI was 53.
"A win over Drake would’ve been real nice," ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme said Friday. "Or knocking off Ohio State instead of just playing competitively for most of the game. That kind of thing. A little bit here and a little bit there, and this conversation has a different tone."
Only four teams from the Big Ten made the 64-team field: Maryland (No. 3 in Bridgeport), Ohio State (No. 5 in Lexington), Michigan State (No. 9 in Stockton, Calif.) and Purdue (No. 9 in Lexington) — the fewest of the Power 5 conferences. The Hawkeyes went 1-4 against those four Big Ten teams.
The "last four teams in" were Purdue, UNI, California and Auburn. Iowa was not included in the "first four teams out," which were South Dakota State, Michigan, George Washington and Virginia.
ESPN bracketologist said the weakness of the Big Ten this year seriously hurt Iowa (17-13, 8-8), especially in comparison with Cal (19-13, 6-12 Pac-12) and Auburn (17-14, 7-9 SEC).
"They have a better conference record than either one of those other two teams," Creme said Friday. "And that’s a factor — that’s something they’ll look at — but I think the committee would also say, ‘Well, the Big Ten is not as good as the SEC or the Pac-12.’
"It’s just one of those years. They’re not getting any help from their league."
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_.