Last season was a magical one for Iowa women’s basketball. The Hawks finished second in the Big Ten in the regular season standings, then stormed their way through three victories in three days to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Just as magical was watching Megan Gustafson’s journey to win the 2018-2019 Player of the Year award in women’s college basketball.
We all knew Gustafson was good before last year. She was the co-Big Ten Player of the Year and a second team All-American as a junior. But she took things to another level in her senior season. A level not seen by Iowa basketball before.
Alas, all good things come to an end, and so too did Megan’s time in an Iowa jersey. But all is not lost. This year’s Iowa team returns a solid group of seniors to mix with Iowa’s best group of freshman recruits since this year’s senior class. Let’s take a look at Iowa’s team this year and the road ahead:
Differences from 2018-2019 Season
The style of basketball for this Iowa team will look significantly different from last season. Last year, Iowa had two posts on the floor basically the entire game, and Gustafson in the low post was always option one offensively.
This season, Iowa will play most of its minutes with only a single post player, and might even have times when there is no true post in the game.
The switch to a more perimeter-oriented lineup is a natural one for coach Lisa Bluder. She’s always preferred a more perimeter-oriented attack. But Iowa was blessed with some wonderful post talent over the past couple seasons, and Bluder adjusted her team’s play style accordingly. With the graduation of Gustafson and Hannah Stewart, Iowa is thin at the post position. But its guard depth is strong, and Bluder has adjusted again to a perimeter focus.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference with the change in style will be in Iowa’s three-point shooting. Last year, I said that three-point shooting would be the X-Factor for Iowa’s season. The Hawks were streaky at best from three, and had a tendency to almost completely abandon three-pointers in close games.
This year, abandoning three-pointers won’t be an issue. Iowa is going to let the peacock fly. The result of that shooting will likely make an even bigger difference in the results for this year’s team. If the Hawks get hot, they could easily upset teams better than them. If they go cold, they might lose to teams that they shouldn’t.
Iowa should also have a faster tempo in this style. The Hawks didn’t play slow last year per say, but if they didn’t have a fast break opportunity, they often slowed things down and tried to work the ball inside. Without the same post advantage, Iowa will likely press the fast-break harder to try finding easier shots than it would in the half court.
What the “Experts” are Saying
Less optimisti: no one is predicting a top 5 finish for Iowa in the Big Ten. Most expect a mid-table finish. Charlie Crème also doesn’t have Iowa in his field of 64 in his Preseason Bracketology.
Overall, a realistic goal for this year’s Iowa team is to make the NCAA Tournament again. Winning a tournament game or finishing higher than the middle in the Big Ten would be exceeding expectations. Failing to make the NCAA Tournament would be a disappointment.
The Road Ahead
(all times CT)
|THU 11/7/19||Florida Atlantic||Iowa City, IA||6:30 PM||BTN+|
|THU 11/14/19||North Alabama||Iowa City, IA||6:30 PM||BTN+|
|SUN 11/17/19||UNI||Cedar Falls, IA||2:00 PM||--|
|WED 11/20/19||Princeton||Iowa City, IA||6:30 PM||BTN+|
|WED 11/27/19||Cincinnati (Puerto Rico Clasico)||San Juan, PR||2:30 PM||FloHoops|
|THU 11/28/19||Towson (Puerto Rico Clasico)||San Juan, PR||12:00 PM||FloHoops|
|SAT 11/30/19||Washington (Puerto Rico Clasico)||San Juan, PR||12:00 PM||FloHoops|
|WED 12/4/19||Clemson (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)||Iowa City, IA||8:00 PM||BTN|
|WED 12/11/19||Iowa State||Ames, IA||7:00 PM||FS1|
|SAT 12/14/19||North Carolina Central||Iowa City, IA||2:00 PM||BTN+|
|SAT 12/21/19||Drake||Iowa City, IA||6:00 PM||BTN+|
The good news for Iowa is that it gets four games against mid-major opponents to break in its new perimeter-oriented style. That experience will be important, as the non-conference schedule gets tougher from there. Overall, Iowa plays five teams (Princeton, Towson, Clemson, Iowa State, and Drake) that made the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Clemson matchup will be especially intriguing, because recent Iowa grad Tania Davis just became a graduate assistant coach with Clemson. As for Big Ten play...
|SAT 12/28/19||Nebraska||Lincoln, NE||1:00 PM||BTN+|
|TUE 12/31/19||Illinois||Iowa City, IA||2:00 PM||BTN+|
|SUN 1/5/20||Northwestern||Evanston, IL||1:00 PM||BTN|
|THU 1/9/20||Maryland||Iowa City, IA||7:00 PM||BTN|
|SUN 1/12/20||Indiana||Iowa City, IA||4:00 PM||BTN|
|THU 1/16/20||Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||7:00 PM||BTN+|
|SUN 1/19/20||Wisconsin||Madison, WI||2:00 PM||BTN+|
|THU 1/23/20||Ohio State||Iowa City, IA||7:00 PM||BTN|
|SUN 1/26/20||Michigan State||Iowa City, IA||3:00 PM||BTN|
|THU 1/30/20||Penn State||State College, PA||6:00 PM||BTN+|
|SUN 2/2/20||Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||11:00 AM||BTN|
|THU 2/6/20||Nebraska||Iowa City, IA||6:30 PM||BTN+|
|SUN 2/9/20||Purdue||West Lafayette, IN||1:00 PM||BTN+|
|THU 2/13/20||Maryland||College Park, MD||5:00 PM||BTN|
|SUN 2/16/20||Wisconsin||Iowa City, IA||2:00 PM||BTN+|
|SAT 2/22/20||Penn State||Iowa City, IA||2:00 PM||BTN+|
|THU 2/27/20||Minnesota||Iowa City, IA||TBD||TBD|
|SUN 3/1/20||Rutgers||New Brunswick, NJ||TBD||TBD|
There are five ranked Big Ten teams in the AP Preseason Poll (#4 Maryland, #17 Michigan State, #23 Minnesota, #24 Indiana, and #25 Michigan). One team in addition to Iowa (Rutgers) is receiving votes in the Poll.
Of those teams, Iowa plays Maryland and Minnesota both home and away, while it plays Michigan State and Indiana exclusively at home and Michigan and Rutgers exclusively away.
Iowa started their 2019-20 campaign with a blowout win over Winona State, 98-53, in an exhibition game on Sunday afternoon. Seven players scored at least 7 points, with three hitting double figures. Monika Czinano led all scorers with 27 points on 13/13 shooting (!), to go along with three rebounds. Kathleen Doyle added 20 points on 8/12 shooting, while Gabbie Marshall had 10 points on 2/7 shooting (2/5 from 30point range). Makenzie Meyer had five points but a team-high eight assists. As a team, Iowa shot 61% from the floor and 7/21 from 3-point range. They forced 21 turnovers and turned those into 32 points and had 13-0 edge in fast break points. They also had a massive 54-12 advantage in points in the paint.