Analysis: Big Ten road schedule not daunting for Iowa women in 2017-18
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.