Indiana women’s basketball welcomes the fifth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes to town tomorrow night in what could very well be the biggest game in program history (so far). The second-ranked Hoosiers (22-1, 12-1 Big Ten) are a perfect 13-0 in Assembly Hall this season but the Hawkeyes (19-4, 11-1 Big Ten) have had their number as of late.
Iowa won both regular season matchups a year ago in addition to besting Indiana 74-67 in the 2022 Big Ten Tournament Final. Given that recent history and the uh, media event, that took place this morning this one’s got the billing of a serious heavyweight bout.
Here’s what you need to know about the Hawkeyes:
Iowa’s best wins have all come in the last month or so. Conference victories at #14 Michigan (94-85), at #2 Ohio State (83-72), and at home versus #8 Maryland (96-82) are all great wins. Phenom guard Caitlin Clark was the catalyst in all three games, recording a triple-double in Columbus before dropping a casual 42 points on the Terps last week. A December Cy-Hawk Series victory over #10 Iowa State rounds out the Hawkeyes’ resume nicely.
All those wins against ranked Big Ten teams are impressive, but it is absolutely worth noting that Indiana has also handily defeated the Wolverines, Buckeyes, and Terrapins in the last 25 days. Additional out of conference victories versus #6 North Carolina and at #11 Tennessee give Indiana a slight upper hand when it comes to quality wins.
Iowa hasn’t lost since New Year’s Day and Indiana hasn’t lost since December 29th. They’re two of the hottest teams in the country and one of them is in for a bit of an unaccustomed outcome tomorrow night. However this game goes, the loser will have nothing to be ashamed of, but what about their losses to date?
Iowa’s got four of ‘em... which is three more than Indiana’s single blemish through 23 games. Four losses may seem like a few too many for the fifth-best team in the country, but the Hawkeyes’ early season schedule was nuts. Their losses are:
- 11/17 at Kansas State (84-83)
- 11/27 neutral site vs. #3 UConn (86-79)
- 12/1 vs. #12 NC State (94-81)
- 1/1 at Illinois (90-86)
Given that those middle two losses come against 2022 Elite Eight teams, they’re pretty understandable. As is dropping a game at Illinois, which permeates similar vibes to Indiana’s winter break loss at Michigan State (sleepy time of the year, on the road at an underrated second-tier Big Ten team). The committee definitely has that KSU result circled though. The WBB selection team has traditionally looked down upon “bad” losses, and it may be the reason Iowa’s currently projected as a #2 seed rather than a #1.
You can’t get your losses back but there’s still tons of basketball left to be played. Depending on how things go the rest of the way both Iowa and Indiana could very well be #1 seeds come March. Tomorrow’s game, the 2/26 rematch in Iowa City, and a potential league tournament meeting between the two loom large.
Straight up, Iowa’s really good. They lead the nation in scoring offense with an average of 88 points per game and are currently second in the country in field goal percentage, connecting on 50.49% of their shots. Indiana’s 50.14% field goal clip ranks third.
Iowa’s last time out resulted in a 95-51 drubbing of Penn State. Caitlin Clark recorded her ninth career triple-double in the victory.
Discourse on Iowa often gets boiled down to Caitlin Clark this and Caitlin Clark that but there’s a lot more to the Hawkeyes than #22. Ball Knowers nationwide all know that forward/center Monika Czinano is the truth in the paint, and she’s given Indiana a ton of trouble in the past.
Czinano was a First Team All-Big Ten honoree a season ago and is averaging 18.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Her 23 points per game average against ranked conference opponents all but guarantees she’ll bring her best stuff tomorrow evening. Czinano’s 30 point, 10 rebound Big Ten Championship game performance is likely seared into the minds of every returning Hoosier on the roster. She absolutely went off.
Iowa’s starting five also includes proven guards Kate Martin, McKenna Warnock, and Gabbie Marshall.
The defensive side of the court is where the Hawkeyes can be exploited. They’re currently ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense and gave up more points than Indiana’s top-rated defensive unit against ten of twelve common opponents.
Given Indiana’s dominance at home and their ability to absolutely suffocate opposing offenses whenever they please, Hoosier fans should feel cautiously optimistic about this one. We are very curious to see how Indiana head coach Teri Moren tries to contain Caitlin Clark, and I for one am hoping Chloe Moore-McNeil gets the matchup to start.