Hawkeyes still have plenty to play for

BY JON FRANK | MARCH 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball team (22-7, 10-6) has all but wrapped up an NCAA Tournament bid, but the Hawkeyes’ performance in the Big Ten Tournament could determine their NCAA success.

Of course, winning is always the desired outcome for any team in any contest. A loss can shake a player’s confidence and put a coach’s play calling into question.

But unlike seasons past, Iowa isn’t still trying to play its way into the NCAA Tournament. ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme’s latest bracketology report predicts the Hawkeyes to enter the Big Dance as a No. 5 seed.

So how does Iowa stay motivated?

The answer may lie in seeding.

“We don’t have to go in here with something to prove,” head coach Lisa Bluder said at her weekly press conference Tuesday. “We are going in there to improve our [NCAA Tournament] seed and to win a Big Ten Tournament title.”

Bluder’s Bunch will have its work cut out for it. On Friday, it will face a streaking Ohio State team that has won six games in a row and consequentially earned the conference’s No. 5 seed. The Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes met twice during the regular season and split the series. Also, Ohio State knocked off Iowa in a 66-64 thriller in last year’s Big Ten Tournament championship game.

A win over Ohio State would certainly make an impression on the NCAA Tournament selection committee and add to Iowa’s résumé. And a Big Ten Tournament championship, on the other hand, might elevate Iowa as high as a fourth seed.

“Right now, we’re thinking we’re a five [seed], six [seed], somewhere in there,” senior Kachine Alexander said. “With every Big Ten win, we could potentially go up a seed. If we could get a four seed, that would be fantastic.”

The Hawkeyes did not receive a tournament bid higher than No. 8 in any of Alexander’s previous three tournament appearances with the team. And the middle-of-the-road seeding has ultimately meant Iowa’s expulsion all three seasons.

In 2008 and 2009, the Hawks lost in the first round. Last year as a No. 8 seed, the team managed to advance past ninth-seeded Rutgers but was walloped by top-seeded Stanford in the next round, 96-67.

A higher seed essentially gives the Hawkeyes a chance to play lower-seeded teams in their first couple games before facing a bracket behemoth.

Hawkeyes honored

Three players from Iowa — Alexander, junior Kamille Wahlin, and sophomore Jaime Printy — are basking in the glow of being named All-Big Ten selections Monday.

Adding to an already impressive list of career achievements, Alexander was named first team All-Big Ten by league coaches and media. She was also one of six players selected to the conference’s all-defensive team.

“To be recognized in this conference is really special,” Bluder said. “When you are recognized as an All-Big Ten player, that means something. And we only pick five for the first team.”

Wahlin was an honorable mention pick by Big Ten coaches and media, and Printy, who leads the team in scoring with a 16.4 point average, was named to the second team. The 5-11 guard was also named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday.

“I didn’t even think about it, to be honest,” the Marion native said. “It’s a great honor because it’s such a great conference; there are so many great players.”

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