Tough NCAA Draw Awaits Hawkeyes

March 14, 2011

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — There are mixed emotions for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team. On one hand the Hawkeyes received a No. 6 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament — their highest seed since 2001 — but on the other hand, Iowa travels to Spokane, Wash., for its first round game against 11th-seeded Gonzaga on its home court Saturday afternoon.

“It’s one of those things you don’t have any control over it, you just have to do the best you can,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder, who will be making her eighth NCAA Tournament appearance with the Hawkeyes. “I thought we did our bit this year in terms of winning and having no bad losses. I like that we got a good seed, but we got a tough six seed.”

Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament champion, enters the NCAA Tournament winners of 18 straight contests. The Zags, who are ranked No. 19 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press poll, posted a 13-1 record on their home court at the McCarthey Athletic Center with their only loss being a six point setback to third-ranked Stanford.

“We’re the only six seed that has to play someone on their home court, so that’s unfortunate,” said Bluder. “We’re happy with our seed, but we know we have a very formidable opponent in how well they’re playing.

“They’re a very good basketball team, it’s a tough match-up, especially on their home court. Everybody you play this time of year is good. There are no bad teams out there.”

Bluder recalled the 2009 NCAA Tournament when ninth-seeded Georgia Tech had to travel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a road game against eighth-seeded Iowa. The Yellow Jackets came in with something to prove, and they proceeded to beat the Hawkeyes on their home court, 76-62.

“I think we have to have a little chip on our shoulder about that (playing on the road),” said Bluder. “I remember when Georgia Tech came in here and had to play us. They came in very upset and did a great job of using that.

“It’s a tough scenario, but hey, we get by them, and we have a neutral court for UCLA.”

The winner of the Iowa/Gonzaga game will face the winner of the No. 3 UCLA and No. 14 Montana contest in the second round on Monday, March 21.

Aside from the seed, Bluder is excited to be playing in late March in the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in her coaching career.

“This is the 12th time that I have done this and it never gets old,” said Bluder. “I enjoy this, to be able to watch them (the players) get excited about all their hard work they’ve put in throughout the whole year.”

Saturday’s game will begin at 3 p.m., and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.