Iowa women, men coming to Des Moines for December basketball doubleheader

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

Five years after the Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena fizzled, the Iowa men’s basketball program is returning to play a game at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines.

And this time, the Hawkeye women’s juggernaut led by national player of the year Caitlin Clark will be there, too.

The university on Wednesday announced a basketball doubleheader scheduled for Dec. 16 on the banks of the Des Moines River: the Iowa women vs. Cleveland State; the Iowa men vs. Florida A&M.

Tickets will go on sale May 24 at 10 a.m. at

Tip-off times will be determine dlater, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hawkeye women’s game billed as the main attraction in the nightcap. Clark, a native of West Des Moines and alum of Dowling Catholic High School, will be playing in her senior season and leading a team that stormed to the 2023 NCAA championship game before falling to LSU. This will be the first-ever game in Wells Fargo Arena for the Iowa women’s program.

Lisa Bluder’s Hawkeyes won a school-record 31 games last season, including a Big Ten Tournament championship, and bring back the majority of a roster that advanced further than any Iowa women’s team in school history. Clark, Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall and Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year Hannah Stuelke are expected to lead the Hawkeyes, who will likely be a preseason top-five team nationally. No question, though, Clark will be the star performer after a record-setting season in which she averaged 27.8 points, 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Cleveland State is no slouch of a program, magnifying the magnitude of the Des Moines matchup. The Vikings are coming off a record-setting season of their own in which they went 30-5 and lost to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament's first round.

Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark will return to her hometown when the Hawkeyes take part in a basketball doubleheader at Wells Fargo Arena on Dec. 16.

Meantime, the Iowa men return to Wells Fargo for the first time since defeating Northern Iowa, 77-54, in the bygone Big Four Classic on Dec. 15, 2018. Luka Garza was a Hawkeye sophomore then and scored 17 points. That game marked the seventh and final staging of the Big Four Classic that featured the state’s four Division I men’s teams and served as an avenue for Iowa and Iowa State to face Drake and Northern Iowa every other year. Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes have not played Drake since the 2017 Big Four Classic and have not played UNI since 2018.

The Iowa men are expected to be led by returning players Patrick McCaffery, Tony Perkins and Waukee native Payton Sandfort, plus incoming transfer Ben Krikke.

The Florida A&M men are coming off a 7-22 season and were deemed the No. 359-ranked team out of 363 in the final rankings for 2022-23.