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Schwartz: The Future is Here for Hawkeye Women’s Hoops

March 14, 2016

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Whatever happens today, whether Iowa’s women’s basketball team is selected for its ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament or misses it for the first time since 2007, we can appreciate what the Hawkeyes have accomplished the last four weeks.

A month ago, Iowa’s season looked over, its NCAA Tournament chances DOA. The Hawkeyes lost. Then they lost again. Then again. And again.

Four straight losses is never good. Four straight with only two weeks left in the regular season can be catastrophic. The NCAA Tournament selection committee, or whatever it’s calling itself these days, takes into account how a team plays to finish the season.

ESPN’s Charlie Creme, who forecasts the NCAA Tournament, calculated that the Hawkeyes were out.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, there was a blip on Iowa’s heart monitor. The Hawkeyes beat Purdue.

Another blip.

They beat Indiana.

Blip blip.

A loss at Penn State, but then a win at home against Illinois.

Blip.

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A Big Ten Tournament win over Michigan.

Blip blip blip blip.

Suddenly the Hawkeyes, who could have called it quits, had won four out of five games. Their overall win total reached 19. They flipped the storyline from “collapsed at the end,” to, “heating up at the right time.” OK, yes. They lost in the Big Ten Tournament to Maryland. But in all fairness, I’m not sure the Minnesota Lynx could beat the fifth-ranked Terrapins.

The Hawkeyes and coach Lisa Bluder played their way back into the tournament picture. Creme currently lists them as a 12th seed, his “last team in.”

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There are no guarantees, of course. Iowa’s overall body of work this season has been solid but not spectacular. Most damning is the 8-10 conference record, which is tied for ninth best in the Big Ten. And they have not beaten a single team currently ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 or, for that matter, any team that received a single vote in the latest poll.

Iowa’s bubble could burst tonight. A team like St. Louis or Temple could slide in ahead of the Hawkeyes and almost no one could argue it was the wrong move.

Still, the Hawkeyes are in the conversation. That’s something. That’s more than something, actually. It’s remarkable, when you consider what they accomplished the previous eight seasons and what they were up against this one.

As Hawkeye fans, it’s understandable if we get a little greedy and take Bluder’s program for granted. They’re one of only 10 college basketball programs to qualify for eight straight NCAA Tournaments, which at least puts them in the same sentence as UConn and Tennessee.

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The Hawkeyes lost a lot to graduation after last season. They graduated so much talent – Samantha Logic, who was taken 10th in the WNBA Draft, Melissa Dixon, and Bethany Doolittle – that it would have been unfair to expect a ninth consecutive NCAA appearance.

And yet, here we are. Maybe. The Hawkeyes have put themselves back in position because, unlike dopes like me, they understood that good programs are about more than just one or two or three people.

Junior Ally Disterhoft, the Hawkeyes’ resident badass, combines her talent with a fearlessness that spreads to the rest of the team. Iowa’s 6-foot-3 post players, sophomore Chase Coley and freshman Megan Gustafson, both average double-digit scoring.

I’m not going to list the entire team, but if you want to fully appreciate what this year’s team has accomplished, consider this: The Hawkeyes went from out of the tournament to potentially back in it with a starting lineup that doesn’t include a senior. Not one. They have seniors – good ones who contribute big minutes – but with the entire starting lineup coming back next season, it’s easy to daydream about the future.

Or, hopefully, we’ll be watching them again in a few days in the NCAA Tournament. Because the Hawkeyes’ future, it seems, is already here.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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