Oct. 30, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Preseason expectations are very real for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, but head coach Lisa Bluder believes the Hawkeyes can live up to the hype.
“They’re an extraordinary group,” Bluder said Thursday at a media day news conference in the Feller Club Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We return four starters from last year’s team that won 27 games. It’s not that we return four starters that create our optimism, but it’s the quality of those starters that gets us excited.”
The Hawkeyes are ranked 19th in the initial Associated Press poll that was released Oct. 30. Iowa was also tabbed to finish third in the Big Ten preseason coaches’ poll.
Iowa brings back four of five starters from a squad that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for a second-straight season. The Hawkeyes have 84 percent of its offense returning from a team that set a school record and led the Big Ten in scoring at 78.2 points per contest.
Iowa welcomes back its top scorer (Bethany Doolittle, 14.2 points), rebounder and distributer (Samantha Logic, 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists), and 3-point shooter (Melissa Dixon, 97 3-pointers). Iowa’s fourth returning starter — sophomore Ally Disterhoft — averaged 13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds en route to All-Big Ten honors in her first collegiate season.
Logic is the team’s undisputed leader.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to be leading our team this season except for Sam,” said Bluder. “She’s an unbelievable competitor and is passionate about the Hawkeyes and her teammates.”
The Hawkeyes will be a deeper team in 2014-15 with the addition of a four-player freshman class that Bluder sees as instant contributors. The newcomers are 5-foot-5 guard Whitney Jennings, 6-0 forward Christina Buttenham, 6-1 forward Carly Mohns, and 6-3 forward Chase Coley.
“You have to be one of the top 16 teams in the country in order to have home-court advantage, and that’s the goal. That’s the vision we have for this team, and hopefully that something special is going to happen with this group of women.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder on potential of hosting 2015 NCAA Tournament
“I don’t know how you keep Whitney Jennings off the floor, and that’s a great problem to have,” said Bluder. “Chase will be on the floor because we need to develop her for the future, and we’ll need her in March, and Carly is a great rebounder; that’s something we needed.”
Jennings was Miss Indiana Basketball last season; Coley was the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year; Buttenham was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team; and Mohns was a first-team all-state selection in Wisconsin.
With the change in the NCAA Tournament, where there are no predetermined home sites, Bluder says the Hawkeyes are ready to go out and earn the right to host the NCAAs on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in March.
“You have to be one of the top 16 teams in the country in order to have home-court advantage, and that’s the goal,” said Bluder. “That’s the vision we have for this team, and hopefully that something special is going to happen with this group.”
Bluder believes the nonconference slate that includes games against Dayton, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Louisville, and three state schools — Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa — will prepare the Hawkeyes for Big Ten competition.
“A lot of people take their nonconference schedule light while preparing for the Big Ten,” said Bluder. “We’ve never done that. We have a difficult schedule ahead of us, and we’re excited to get our season going.”
The Hawkeyes, who play eight of their first 12 games in Iowa City, host St. Ambrose in an exhibition contest Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. (CT) before squaring off against USC Upstate on Nov. 14 in their regular season opener.