A new era of Iowa women's basketball begins

BY MATT CABEL | OCTOBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Lisa Bluder, Sam Logic, and Bethany Doolittle sat in the depths of Carver-Hawkeye Arena on a pedestal.

The Hawkeyes had just finished their last game of the season, a March 26 loss to Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was strange: Seniors Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson were nowhere in sight — only the game’s top two performers in the stat box interviewed. It was a preview of sorts, in its own way.

This is the future, the sight proclaimed.

“Two starters, with names such as Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy — that’s not going to be an easy role to fill,” then-sophomore guard Sam Logic told members of the media when prompted about a future without the seniors, two of the faces of Iowa women’s basketball.

Back then, it was a thought for another day. Now, it’s reality.

Printy and Johnson won’t be in the locker room anymore, waiting for interviews. They’re not on the practice courts with Bluder, Logic, and Doolittle. They won’t take the court in Carver when it comes time for games.

It’s a new year: new schedule, new faces, and new challenges. The biggest challenge, of course, is filling the void left by Printy and Johnson and adapting to the style of play that best fits the current roster.

Logic and Doolittle are both used to the starting lineup — there’s no problem there. Doolittle will just slide a few feet over and play under the basket at center full time. She spent last season beside Johnson as a power forward.

Now, Melissa Dixon, reigning Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year, will need to provide an instant spark when she takes over Printy’s spot as the starting shooting guard after only starting three games last season.

The team has definitely taken a hit as far as height goes, so small ball will reign supreme for the 2013-14 team. Experience will occupy four of the five spots, with Logic at the point, Theairra Taylor and Dixon as shooting guards, and Doolittle at center.

The real question comes at power forward. Bluder wouldn’t announce who would get the start for the exhibition game on Nov. 3, but she did give a list of options. Forwards Claire Till and Kali Peschel could see time, or freshmen Ally Disterhoft and  Alexa Kastanek.

The reality is that all four should see time before the starting lineup is cemented once Big Ten play begins.

But those options can only go so far. The team only has 11 women on its roster. The women won’t have the advantages that the men have, who can make lineup upon lethal lineup. Bluder also hinted at playing even smaller by putting four guards on the floor and moving Till to center.

It would be risky, especially against such teams as Nebraska and Penn State, but it might just be crazy enough to work against teams who also don’t have enough height. Dixon and Taylor are well-established shooters from beyond the arc. Throw in a consistent long-range threat from Logic — who can always pass the ball away when a defender starts to close in — and defenses might as well line up under the basket for the potential rebound.

Replacing Printy and Johnson isn’t easy — and the team isn’t denying the challenges. But asking the younger players to step up immediately isn’t a new story line. Remember that Logic, Taylor, Doolittle, and Dixon have all made contributions since they were freshmen. Playing small ball and emphasizing 3-pointers isn’t new, either. It’s just never been this crucial.

But if any team, any program, can pull it off to qualify for its seventh-straight NCAA Tournament, it’s the Hawkeyes.

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