Did you know that basketball season is upon us? No seriously, it is. The Iowa women’s basketball team has their exhibition game against Dakota Wesleyan next Tuesday, November 6th at 7pm at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
The season officially opens on Friday, November 9th at 7 in Carver against Oral Roberts (no relation). And since the season is so close, it’s time to catch up with this year’s team.
When last we saw Iowa, they suffered a 76-70 loss in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament against Creighton. That result was, obviously, far from ideal. Iowa was the higher seed, and looked like the better team on paper. But upsets happen, and that result shouldn’t take away from what was otherwise a very good season.
To begin last year, a reasonable goal for Iowa was returning to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. I projected Iowa to do just that, though a lack of depth and the loss of the program’s leading scorer, Ally Disterhoft, left some glaring questions.
The Hawkeyes exceeded those expectations. They lost only once, by a single point to a highly rated Florida State team, in the non-conference, and looked poised to compete for a Big Ten title. The loss of Tania Davis to a second ACL injury cooled those expectations slightly, but Iowa still managed to finish the year with a 24-8 record, and they earned a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
So, coming off a season that exceeded expectations, what should we expect from Iowa this year? I’ll have a more thorough analysis in the coming days, but the short answer is that expectations should be high. How high you might ask? Well, let’s take a look:
— B1G Women's Hoops (@B1Gwbball) October 22, 2018
But the Hawks haven’t just earned the respect of the Big Ten coaches, the media also project them to finish 2nd in conference. In fact, some believe a projected 2nd place finish isn’t optimistic enough.
Iowa is also well positioned nationally, with Associated Press voters ranking them the 13th best team in the nation.
So why are expectations so high? Well, Iowa’s top returning player has a lot to do with it.
— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) October 22, 2018
Megan Gustafson was an All American and the media’s Big Ten Player of the Year last year, and people are expecting a similar season this time around. She is the unanimous pre-season Big Ten player of the year for the coaches and the media, and she’s already being projected by some as a 1st team All American.
The Robin to Gustafson’s Batman last year was Kathleen Doyle. Like Gustafson, Doyle is back this year, and is getting her own recognition, as the coaches and media selected her pre-season 1st Team All Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes also return 4 of 5 starters, and 7 of their top 8 minute earners. Additionally, a 4 women freshman class should help reduce some of the depth concerns of last year. If everything comes together this season, Iowa should compete for a Big Ten Championship and has a chance to make a deep post-season run.