IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa women's basketball opens its 2017-18 Big Ten Conference schedule Dec. 28 at Wisconsin. It then faces two biggies back-to-back right after that, hosting Michigan Dec. 31 and traveling to Maryland Jan. 4.
Those immediate tests will be a good barometer for the Hawkeyes. Other than Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan are the significant Big Ten favorites.
"We are looking forward to another challenging Big Ten season," head coach Lisa Bluder said in a press release. "Our double games are all against border states — Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin — and I think our fans will really enjoy that. I also like the opportunity to wrap up our season at home as we face Indiana. Our supporters have always been amazing at sending our senior classes out in style."
Overall, the first half of the schedule is significantly tougher for Iowa. Wins in those Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State games will be tall tasks. And five of the Hawkeyes' first seven conference games come on the road.
But they could very well run the table in their final eight conference games; they will be favored in each. Michigan State is depleted and will take a significant step back this year. Penn State is a dark horse, but Iowa will play that game in Iowa City. Then, it would be an upset if Iowa loses to any of the rest of its final eight opponents (Nebraska, Minnesota, Rutgers, Indiana, Northwestern and Wisconsin).
The full 2017-18 Big Ten schedule was released on Big Ten Network on Wednesday. Here is Iowa's, which features six weekend home games:
Dec. 28: at Wisconsin
Dec. 31: vs. Michigan
Jan. 4: at Maryland
Jan. 7: at Illinois
Jan. 13: vs. Purdue
Jan. 16: at Nebraska
Jan. 21: at Minnesota
Jan. 25: vs. Ohio State
Jan. 28: vs. Nebraska
Feb. 1: at Michigan State
Feb. 4: vs. Minnesota
Feb. 8: vs. Penn State
Feb. 11: at Northwestern
Feb. 18: vs. Wisconsin
Feb. 21: at Rutgers
Feb. 24: vs. Indiana
Feb. 28-March 4: Big Ten Tournament
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.