The Iowa men's basketball team wasn't the only squad of Hawkeye hoopsters that released a schedule for the 2021-22 season yesterday -- the women also released their schedule for this upcoming season. This figures to be one of the most anticipated years for Bluder's bunch in recent years, as they look to build on a Sweet 16 appearance in Year 2 of The Caitlin Clark Show. Speaking of Clark... did you know that she has a brother playing for the enemy this weekend?
But let's look at the schedule:
|THU 11/4/21||Truman State (exhib)||Iowa City, IA|
|TUE 11/9/21||New Hampshire||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 11/11/21||Samford||Iowa City, IA|
|SUN 11/14/21||Northern Iowa||Cedar Falls, IA|
|WED 11/17/21||Southern University||Iowa City, IA|
|SUN 11/21/21||Drake||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 11/25/21||Seton Hall (Cancun Challenge)||Cancun, Mexico|
|FRI 11/26/21||USC (Cancun Challenge)||Cancun, Mexico|
|THU 12/2/21||Duke (ACC-Big Ten Challenge)||Durham, NC|
|SUN 12/5/21||Michigan State||Iowa City, IA|
|WED 12/8/21||Iowa State||Ames, IA|
|SAT 12/18/21||Central Florida||Iowa City, IA|
|TUE 12/21/21||IUPUI||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 12/30/21||Penn State||University Park, PA|
|SUN 1/2/22||Illinois||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 1/6/22||Northwestern||Iowa City, IA|
|SUN 1/9/22||Nebraska||Lincoln, NE|
|THU 1/13/22||Purdue||West Lafayette, IN|
|SUN 1/16/22||Nebraska||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 1/20/22||Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN|
|SUN 1/23/22||Indiana||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 1/27/22||Northwestern||Evanston, IL|
|MON 1/31/22||Ohio State||Iowa City, IA|
|THU 2/3/22||Wisconsin||Madison, WI|
|SUN 2/6/22||Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI|
|THU 2/10/22||Minnesota||Iowa City, IA|
|MON 2/14/22||Maryland||Iowa City, IA|
|SUN 2/20/22||Indiana||Bloomington, IN|
|THU 2/24/22||Rutgers||Piscataway, NJ|
|SUN 2/27/22||Michigan||Iowa City, IA|
A few thoughts:
* Iowa's season gets going two weeks from today, with a visit from New Hampshire. Settle the early caucus vs primary debate on the court!
* Iowa doesn't leave the state until a Thanksgiving trip to Cancun to face Seton Hall and USC in the Cancun Challenge, but they do squeeze in a road trip to UNI among home games against less-buzzy opposition. Drake has been a strong squad in recent years, but it's unclear how good they'll be in 21-22, especially as they break in a new coach. Seton Hall went 14-7 last year and did not play again after losing in the Big East Tournament. USC went 11-12 last year and also has a new coach.
* After the Mexico excursion and a visit to Duke as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (the Blue Devils went just 3-1 last season and ended up skipping most of the season due to COVID concerns) returns to Iowa City for a Big Ten opener against Michigan State, before heading to Ames to try and run their Cy-Hawk winning streak to six in a row. The Iowa-Iowa State games have been absolute doozies in recent years and I'd expect another battle for Iowa in that one; that might be the toughest game in Iowa's non-conference slate (depending on how good Duke is this season).
* For the record --
Big Ten single plays: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin
Big Ten double plays: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
* The Big Ten opponent distribution presents a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, only playing Maryland, Ohio State, and Rutgers once reduces the opportunity to grab quality wins and make up head-to-head gaps in the standings if necessary. On the other hand... only having to potentially beat them once in the regular season is a boost to Iowa's conference championship ambitions, especially with Maryland and Ohio State having to visit Iowa City.
* The double-play portion of Iowa's schedule is not without its challenges, though. Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan were all NCAA Tournament teams last season. Indiana was one of the best teams in the league and Northwestern swept Iowa last year (and particularly stymied Caitlin Clark). I'm not sure how much those teams return this season, but they could pose a definite threat to Iowa in those home-and-away games this season.
* That finishing kick is no joke, either. Starting with a potentially huge Valentine's Day showdown with Maryland, Iowa finishes off the regular season with the Terps, road trips to Indiana and Rutgers, and a home game with Michigan in the regular season finale. If Iowa is in the Big Ten title hunt, they'll need to earn it with some strong performances late in the year.
* But overall this does look like a schedule that sets up pretty well for Iowa to legitimately contend for a Big Ten championship. They should be one of the league's top teams and not having to play games in College Park or Columbus should be a definite boost to their W-L record in league play. If they can stay healthy and peak at the right time, this Hawkeye team could be poised to make some noise in February and March.
Year One of The Caitlin Clark Show was an unabashed success. We can't wait to see what she -- and her talented teammates, like Monika Czinano, McKenna Warnock, and Gabbie Marshall (among others!) -- can do for an encore in 2021-22.