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Analysis: Big Ten road schedule not daunting for Iowa women in 2017-18

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Big Ten announced 2017-18 conference opponents for each of its women's basketball teams Monday afternoon. Iowa received one of the more favorable draws.

It plays preseason favorite Ohio State once — at home. It avoids playing Maryland twice. And it will host most of the rest of its "big" games.

Iowa's Megan Gustafson looks to shoot during the Hawkeyes' game against Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

Dates, times and television coverage for Big Ten contests will be announced at a later date. But Iowa's full list of opponents is as follows: 

  • Home: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
  • Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers
  • Home and away: Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin

Iowa will be favored in all six of its home/away games, although the games against Minnesota, which returns almost all of its 2016-17 roster, won't be gimmes.

Road games at Maryland and Michigan State headline that portion of the schedule. Rutgers is nearly a lock for the Big Ten's bottom half. Northwestern loses Nia Coffey and nearly 75 percent of its offense from last season. Illinois, with new head coach Nancy Fahey, is still a few years away from contention.

The Hawkeyes will compete with three of their home-only opponents for the top five conference spots. Indiana and Purdue will likely take steps back next year. But Ohio State will be a popular Final Four pick, with Kelsey Mitchell and her 22.6 points per game returning. Michigan returns nearly everyone from a team that was last year's biggest NCAA Tournament snub. And Penn State — fresh off its surprising 9-7 Big Ten record — will be in every game as long as Teniya Page is healthy.

So, at this point, pretty much everything is set in stone for Iowa's 2017-18 schedule — except dates. The Hawkeyes will host Drake and travel to Northern Iowa and Iowa State. They will host Florida State Nov. 29 in the Big Ten/ACC Women's Basketball Challenge. They've also got games slated against Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Samford and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Missouri, Western Kentucky and Quinnipiac (a Sweet 16 team last year) will compete with Iowa in The Hawkeye Challenge. Iowa will also play a tournament in Puerto Rico with Morgan State, Elon and North Carolina-Charlotte as potential opponents.

Iowa's sports information director said the team is "waiting on a couple tournament games of the nonconference schedule to get finalized" before releasing it.

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.