After a hard-fought year amid sky-high expectations and increased national visibility culminating in a second straight Big Ten Tournament championship, the Iowa Hawkeyes now begin what they hope is a run to a national title. For the second consecutive year, they are hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They will play in front of sold out crowds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena as a No. 2 seed in the Seattle 4 Region.
Their last go-around was a heartbreaking exit in the second round against Creighton in a down-to-the-wire game.
To erase that memory, the Hawkeyes had to battle their way all year to prove that they are a perennial powerhouse in college basketball. Highlight reels, chemistry, and an overall healthy roster worked in their favor and carried them over to this point.
Superstar junior guard Caitlin Clark, who is in the running for the Naismith Player of the Year, spoke at the pre-practice press conference on Thursday about the team’s familiarity and their confidence to focus on the task at hand and the importance of playing their game to come out on top.
“We just want to come out and play Iowa basketball and be what we have been all year, “ she said. “I think that’s the most important thing for us is that we don’t have to change anything now that we are in the NCAA Tournament. We are playing teams that maybe we are not as familiar with. So just knowing your scout and coming out to do what we do every single night I think will be good for us.”
Senior guard Gabbie Marshall spoke about what distinguishes this year’s team from last year in terms of their preparation for the tournament.
“We have the mentality that we can’t take any team lightly this year,” she said. “We have a chip on our shoulder because of how we ended last year and we don’t want to feel that again. I think we just came out strong this year, ready to compete, and ready to work hard.”
Coach Lisa Bluder addressed the depth of the Hawkeye bench with the likes of freshman forward Hannah Stuelke, freshman guard Molly Davis, and sophomore guard Sydney Affolter contributing greatly this year and how their presence will be vital in the tournament with the small period of rest in between games.
“I think anytime you have that depth it sure helps you get through a Big Ten Tournament when you play back to back-to-back,” she said. “The NCAA Tournament we usually have a day in between. The grind of a long season is real and you can see a…