Iowa, Georgia put on their dancing shoes

March 19, 2008

by Derek Sawvell

IOWA CITY, Iowa — After the NCAA tournament selection show Monday night, the University of Iowa women’s basketball team (21-10 overall, 13-5 Big Ten) found out that it received a No. 9 seed in the New Orleans Regional and will face the No. 8-seeded Georgia Bulldogs (22-9, 8-6 SEC) in Norfolk, Va., on March 23, at 1:30 p.m. (Iowa time) on ESPN.

Iowa is one of four schools from the Big Ten to be selected to the field of 64 with Purdue and Minnesota also receiving No. 9 seeds and Ohio State receiving a No. 6 seed. Some basketball fans were left rubbing their heads after seeing that the co-Big Ten Champion Hawkeyes were selected as a No. 9 seed.

“I think we all thought we’d be a little higher,” said junior point guard Kristi Smith. “But we’re happy to be in the tournament and hopefully we can prove some people wrong. We’re going in there prepared.”

“I don’t know if all three of us (Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue) deserved to have nine seeds, but I don’t make those decisions and I don’t control it,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “We’re just going to go in there and play Georgia.”

This is the third time in the last four NCAA tournament appearances that Iowa has received a No. 9 seed (2002, 2004, 2008). The Hawkeyes were a No. 10 seed in their last NCAA tournament appearance in 2006.

“Nobody wants to be a No. 9 seed because if you win, your next match-up is a No. 1 seed,” Bluder said.

Iowa has played Georgia four times, splitting the series 2-2 and bouncing the Bulldogs from the NCAA tournament in 1987. But Georgia has been to the past 16 NCAA tournaments and has made the Sweet 16 each of the last five seasons. Georgia finished fourth in the SEC behind No. 1 seed Tennessee, No. 2 seed LSU and No. 4 seed Vanderbilt.

“Absolutely we have a tough draw,” Bluder said. “I saw they were the No. 8 seed and couldn’t honestly believe it. This is a great ball team we’re going to face and we’re very excited to give it everything we have.”

Georgia senior forward Tasha Humphrey will be the focus for Iowa. Humphrey averages 17 points and nine rebounds per game and was named to her fourth first-team All-SEC selection this year.

“This is a storied program with very balanced scoring,” Bluder said. “They have five players averaging double-figures and it’s every coach’s dream to have that balanced scoring. But when you’re talking Georgia, you have to start with Tasha Humphrey. We have to try and limit her touches. She’s a versatile player and she’s extremely strong.”

Bluder feels there are more similarities than differences between the two teams. Each team has a similar record and seed in the field, yet Bluder sees similarities on the court as well.

“I feel there are a lot of similarities between our two basketball teams,” Bluder said. “They remind us of ourselves. They’re pretty big, shoot the three-ball pretty well and rebound pretty well. They actually shoot more threes than we do which is saying something because we shoot a lot of them. I think we really have good match-ups with these players.”

After leaving the game against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament with a knee injury, Johanna Solverson has been working her way back to full strength for the NCAA tournament.

“She’s looked OK,” Bluder said. “Technically there’s nothing wrong. She just has to gain that confidence again out there.”

Solverson said she was feeling fine and was just anticipating the game with Georgia.

“I’m expecting it to be a great game,” Solverson said. “We both have the same on both ends.”

And as far as Georgia’s current streak of five straight Sweet 16 appearances: “It’s in the past. Every year something can happen. Upsets happen.”

The Hawkeyes will have a total of 15 days off before playing on Sunday. The first week was spent working on fundamentals and the current week has been spent preparing specifically for Georgia.

“We’ve spent last week preparing now that we know who our opponent is,” Bluder said. “And you always have to work on your fundamentals. It never ends.”

The winner will face the winner of No. 1 North Carolina and No. 16 Bucknell in the second round on March 25.

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