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Point/counterpoint: Will the women's basketball team make the NCAA Tournament?

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Yes

In what, has become an annual event, the Iowa women's basketball team is once again surging at the end of the Big Ten season.

If the Hawkeyes win just one of their last three regular-season games, it will be the fifth season in a row that Iowa has won at least six of its last eight. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Iowa will earn its fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth this season.

The Hawkeyes' current five-game win streak has pushed the team to fifth in the Big Ten standings, and the Black and Gold are playing their best basketball at the end of the season — something the tournament committee will look favorably upon.

What makes Iowa's end-of-season run even more improbable is that three of the five-straight wins have come without the services of junior All-American Jaime Printy, whose season ended with an ACL tear against Wisconsin on Feb. 2.

Printy's scoring production has been replaced by increased outputs from other Hawkeyes, especially junior Morgan Johnson, senior Kamille Wahlin, and freshman Sam Logic.

Johnson has led the effort by averaging 17.7 points per game over her last three contests. Senior guard Wahlin is averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 assists over the same span. Logic, a 5-9 guard, has pulled down 9.7 rebounds per game to go with an average of 14 points in Printy's absence.

With the Hawkeye triumvirate playing stellar basketball, the Hawkeyes will garner at least a 2-1 record over the final three games of the regular season — they play Michigan twice, at home and away, and Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. A win or two in the Big Ten Tournament would also help solidify Iowa's bid to be a NCAA Tournament team.

The team was all but left for dead after a 3-5 Big Ten start, but Bluder's Bunch will be dancing in March.

— by Ryan Murphy

No

The Iowa women's basketball team has, at minimum, four more games to prove it deserves a bid for the NCAA Tournament.

But the Hawkeyes won't succeed.

The Hawkeyes will have to split with Michigan — a team coming off of a 63-52 victory over then-No. 13 Nebraska in Lincoln that appears to be hitting its stride — to get a quality win in those four games.

Northwestern is Iowa's other regular-season opponent, and the Wildcats currently occupy 11th place in the Big Ten at 3-9 in conference play. Assuming the Black and Gold stay on pace to lock up the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament, their probable first-round opponent is 12th-place Indiana (0-11).

So there aren't many chances for Iowa to add to its résumé.

The team has played well without injured star Jaime Printy — but how long can it continue to fill the 16.9-point void left by Printy's absence?

Eventually, the lack of Printy's blend of shooting and penetration ability is going to come back to bite Lisa Bluder's squad. It will be in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday, where Iowa is 4-3 dating back to 2002 — but just 1-2 in Crisler Arena since 2009.

A road loss to the Wolverines will cost Iowa its last chance to gain a quality win away from Iowa City, which is something it needs to secure a bid. And if Michigan gets on a roll, the Wolverines could very well sweep Bluder's Bunch. If that happens, the Hawkeyes will need to run through the Big Ten Tournament for their bid — and knocking off Samantha Prahalis and No. 9 Ohio State will be a tough task.

— by Tork Mason


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