Iowa women's basketball finds motivation in last season's ending, plus four more takeaways
Iowa women's basketball's abrupt ending to last season is still a sore spot.
The Hawkeyes completed a Big Ten sweep winning both the regular season and conference tournament championships but fell to Creighton at home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on a last-second shot.
This summer, the team is using the feeling of that loss to fuel them this upcoming season where the expectations might be even higher.
"We use the end as motivation for sure," emerging senior Kate Martin said. "We've brought up that last loss quite a few times this summer. I mean, I think that's what you should do use it as motivation. We never want to feel the way we did last year ever again. So we're gonna do everything in our power to never feel like that."
Iowa's coupling last season's loss with a full 15-player roster (the first ever in Bluder's tenure) to up the level of competition this summer. Martin noted the team's held player-led scrimmages multiple times per week all summer. And Caitlin Clark said the competitive drive they've shown so far is exactly what's needed for success this season.
"That's exactly what you want," Clark said. "You want people fighting for playing time. I think the coaches love it and I'm not sure coach Bluder has had a full roster in her time here. I think it's just gonna make everyone work that much harder and that's really what we need going into next year."
Here's four more takeaways from Iowa women's basketball's summer press availability:
Hawkeyes' experience is giving them an early advantage
Bluder and players noted that they've gotten off to a faster-than-normal start this summer, because they'll have the same starting five for the third consecutive year.
In addition to continuity, there's much more experience. Clark stated that this will be the first time that the starting lineup is all upperclassmen. These benefits extend past the starters however. Familiarity with offensive and defensive sets allows them to focus on getting more reps for younger players and backups who might need to fill a role later down the road.
"You're not having as much teaching," Bluder said. "Really, it's kind of building the chemistry of those new people. What I can do right now is give some of those older veterans some time off, let them really be fresh in March because maybe they don't have to have as many repetitions early because they already know the system. Give more repetitions to the younger players and save (Monika Czinano) for the rest of the year. I think that's a real advantage for us."
Lisa Bluder provided injury updates
Two players missed the 2021-22 season to torn ACL injuries, redshirt sophomores Sharon Goodman and Shateah Wetering. Bluder said on Friday that both players are making strides and should be cleared by the start of the season.
"We were able to medically redshirt him for the year so they get the year back," Bluder said. "But they're progressing really well. They're coming back; they should be at full strength. They're not there now but they should be at full strength by Oct. 1."
Iowa's eyeing a top tournament seed with non-conference schedule
On Friday, Iowa women's basketball announced their full non-conference schedule. Drake, Iowa State and Northern Iowa were expected opponents but there's several others that will command attention outside of state lines.
The Hawkeyes will host ACC Champion and Elite Eight finalist North Carolina State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Two more opponents, Belmont and Kansas State, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. They'll also travel to Portland, Oregon to participate in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament. Their first game is against Oregon State with a second game against either Connecticut or Duke.
In total, eight of Iowa's 11 non-conference opponents held winning records last season including the aforementioned Iowa State, who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen last season. Their tough schedule was by design. Initially, it will prepare them for a tough Big Ten slate, but Clark also added that a tough non-conference (with potentially big wins) will pay dividends when it's time for NCAA Tournament seeding.
"If that's what you need to get one seed at the postseason, we want to be a one seed going into the NCAA Tournament," Clark said. "I'm the type of person that was really, really hard games and those are the games you get most excited for so I wouldn't want it any other way. It's pretty cool, really, really good teams. That's what you need to prepare not only for postseason but the Big Ten."
Bluder, Clark talk NIL impact on program
On Monday, Clark's newest NIL venture became official. The star guard signed a deal with the trading card company Topps. Her autographs will be some of the first officially licensed University of Iowa cards ever made by Topps.
One year into NIL, Clark's emerged as one of Iowa's most profitable athletes and has a clear idea of how she picks and chooses deals.
"I always want to partner with pretty big companies that are usually long-term deals," Clark said. "(Companies) that kind of align with my values as who I am as a person. I think those are kind of the main things I look at when I'm choosing between companies to partner with."
Clark isn't the only Iowa women's player profiting from NIL. Bluder named Czinano, Martin and McKenna Warnock as players who've had ventures as well.
Iowa women's basketball's involvement with NIL should increase with the announcement of Iowa's Swarm Collective. Bluder noted that coaches across the country who push back on NIL will get left behind and having a collective that prioritizes their sport will help give them a leg up in recruiting.
"I see collectives at schools all over the country where it's only football or only men's basketball and football," Bluder said "For the University of Iowa to include women's basketball speaks volumes of the culture of this university and also the guys in charge of those programs. So I'm really proud of that, we're going to be a part of that collective and it's obviously something that we can sell to our recruits."
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.