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Lisa Bluder: 'I really believe that they think the sky’s the limit for them.' Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

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Monday’s Big Ten Conference women’s basketball preseason awards carried a strong Iowa flavor.

Senior forward Megan Gustafson was unanimously named the conference’s preseason player of the year. The Hawkeyes were picked second in the Big Ten poll behind only Maryland.  

Gustafson thundered onto the college basketball scene last season. She was the conference co-player of the year and was named a consensus second-team all-American. Gustafson led the country in points per game (25.7), field-goal percentage (67.1) and field goals made (320).

Her emergence is one of the biggest reasons why Iowa carries big expectations this year. The Hawkeyes return all but one key contributor from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad, and are expected to be in the mix for a conference title. Along with Gustafson, point guard Kathleen Doyle was named to the coaches’ and media’s preseason all-Big Ten team.

Both polls had Maryland and Iowa 1-2 — but there was differing on No. 3. The coaches went with Michigan. The media chose Minnesota. Start with those squads when it comes to Iowa’s biggest challengers.

The Hawkeyes are first in action Nov. 6 with an exhibition game against Dakota Wesleyan. Iowa opens the regular season Nov. 9 versus Oral Roberts.  

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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