Postseason outlook appears solid for Iowa women


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That’s pretty much how the Big Ten can be summed up after Thursday night’s games around the league.

At this point, no one can definitively project the conference tournament seedings, which will begin March 2 in Conseco Field House in Indianapolis. The standings will come down to the season’s final day, Feb. 27.

For Iowa, with a win Feb. 27 at Indiana, it can be seeded as high as No. 4 or as low as No. 5 following three upsets by Minnesota, Ohio State, and Purdue on Thursday night. The Golden Gophers, Buckeyes, and Boilermakers defeated Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State, respectively.

Iowa certainly helped itself with a win against Illinois, which sophomore Jaime Printy described as a “win for the seniors.”

“What [Kachine Alexander and Kelsey Cermak] do on and off the court,” Printy said. “I can’t even compare it to anything else.”

Michigan State and Penn State began the day as the first- and second-place teams in the conference. Minnesota remains at the bottom of the pack following the win.

The Hawkeyes could potentially play three teams in its second-round matchup next week — seeds 1-5 receive first-round byes — and head coach Lisa Bluder described the situation as “confusing” following Thursday’s win against Illinois.

“We don’t know all the tiebreaker scenarios right now,” Bluder said. “All we know is, if we beat Indiana, we’ll be guaranteed as least fifth.”

Given that Iowa might play either Michigan, Ohio State, or Wisconsin, here’s how the Hawkeyes match up with those schools.

Iowa vs. Michigan

Bluder’s squad lost to the Wolverines earlier this season, and that was in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. So while Michigan may not be a fluke, it has most notably lost to Minnesota twice this season and fell against Purdue and Michigan State twice. If a rematch ensued between Iowa and Michigan, that isn’t too bad.

Iowa vs. Ohio State

The Hawkeyes split their series with the Buckeyes this season, and they would be a dangerous opponent for a second-round game. Ohio State still boasts All-American Jantel Lavender and feisty point guard Samantha Prahalis. Iowa probably wants to root for the Buckeyes to lose on Feb. 27, when it plays Wisconsin.

Iowa vs. Wisconsin

In this matchup scenario, the Hawkeyes have the advantage. Iowa crushed the Badgers this month, albeit on its home floor, but the Hawks clearly were the better team that day. Although a rematch would be at a neutral site — Indianapolis — the Hawkeyes have the advantage.

In this scenario, though, Iowa would likely play Penn State in the semifinal. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes this season not once, but twice.

NCAA Tournament outlook

Iowa is in good position right now to avoid the 8-9 seed range, which has been its seed each of the last three seasons.

Charlie Creme, ESPN.com’s women’s basketball bracketologist, currently projects Iowa as a No. 6 seed. If Iowa were to win in that scenario, it would play either a 3-seed or 14-seed depending on who wins.

“I think Iowa is the third-best team in the league,” Creme said in a phone interview. “Record-wise, that’s not necessarily indicated, but I think they’re a better team than Michigan. I would give Iowa the nod over Ohio State as well.

“I still think Iowa has a bit of an inflated RPI, but I think its overall body of work would leave it as a 5 or 6 seed.”

Bluder said she thinks her squad is fairly safe to be out of that 8-9 range this year, which would prove to be quite significant in the tournament. Iowa would avoid a second-round matchup with a No. 1 seed if so.

“I think we’ll get a good seed regardless of what happens in the Big Ten Tournament, although I think we can ensure it with a really good tournament,” Bluder said. “I think we’re off that 8-9 situation right now. [That’s] death row being in that situation.”

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