March 6, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — During every women’s basketball season, the next seven days might be the most stressful for head coach Lisa Bluder and her University of Iowa women’s basketball team.
The Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament ends eight days before the field of 64 is revealed for the NCAA Tournament. That means players and coaches have an entire week to wonder about selections, seedings, potential matchups and first round locations.
After a quick glance at Iowa’s tournament resume, Iowa has a good chance of celebrating when Selection Monday rolls around. According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Hawkeyes have a very respectable RPI (42) and strength of schedule (27). Iowa has four wins over top 50 RPI opponents, including a top 25 RPI victory over St. John’s (11).
Another deciding factor for the NCAA Selection Committee is the final 12 games of the season. The Hawkeyes finished the season winning nine of their last 12 games, with the three losses coming against nationally ranked opponents (Nebraska twice and Big Ten regular season champion Penn State). Iowa put together an impressive eight-game winning streak to close the regular season, with three of those wins coming against top 50 RPI opponents.
Iowa’s overall record of 19-11 is a solid mark and the Hawkeyes finished tied for second and earned the No. 3 seed in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country.
The latest ESPN.com “Bracketology” has the Hawkeyes in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed.
Bluder believes those pieces make Iowa an attractive at-large pick for the NCAA Tournament.
“I think we have a very good chance of making the tournament,” Bluder said after the Big Ten Tournament loss to Nebraska. “We’re in one of the toughest women’s basketball conferences in America, and we tied for second in that conference. We played well down the stretch. That’s something people will look for.”
Even with a strong tournament resume, the uncertainties of opponents and potential seedings still won’t be answered for another week. Instead of trying to think of every possible scenario, Bluder and the Hawkeyes are just going to focus on practice over the next seven days.
“There are so many different scenarios when it comes to the tournament,” Bluder said. “You could try to come up with as many of them as possible, but you won’t know for sure until Selection Monday. We just need to worry about having good practices and focusing on our team next week.”
The Hawkeyes returned to practice Monday without having to prepare for a specific opponent. Senior Kamille Wahlin has been through the “off-week” before, and knows it’s a perfect time to get back to fundamentals.
“We don’t have an opponent to worry about or a scouting report to review,” Wahlin said. “We can go back to drills and work on things that maybe we didn’t have as much time to work on during the middle of the Big Ten season. This week is all about getting better as a team.”
Practice will help pass the time for the Hawkeyes as they wait for their NCAA Tournament fate. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is scheduled to air Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPN.