IOWA CITY — For all the success Iowa women’s basketball has delivered this year — and there’s been plenty — the narrative-shaping part of this season starts right now.
With visions of the program’s first Final Four appearance since 1994, the Hawkeyes will begin their NCAA Tournament journey inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena as the tournament’s top No. 2 seed.
Iowa will open with No. 15 seed Southeastern Louisiana on Friday, followed by a second-round date with the Florida State-Georgia winner. Those should both be sellouts. Avoid another home stunner and the Hawkeyes will head out west to Seattle, where Iowa and its No. 1 seed Stanford are on an Elite Eight collision course — with No. 4 seed Texas and No. 3 seed Duke hoping to disrupt things.
“I’m so excited,” Iowa standout Caitlin Clark said. “Our fans are the best in the country. I know tickets are going to be super hard to get their hands on (for the first and second rounds). I think we’re already over 10,000 (tickets sold) and they aren’t even on sale yet just because of season-ticket holders. It’s going to be a hard ticket to come by, which is really special and unique for women’s basketball.”
After riding another late-season push to a second-place Big Ten finish and the program’s third conference tournament title since 2019, the Hawkeyes wedged their way into the 1-seed conversation just in time for Selection Sunday.
With South Carolina and Indiana locked in on the top lines, the chatter centered on Virginia Tech, Iowa, Connecticut and Stanford for the final two No. 1 seeds. The Hokies and Cardinal snagged those spots just ahead of Iowa, with the Huskies also landing on the No. 2 line.
“It appears we were the first No. 2. What’s the difference between being the fourth No. 1 and the first No. 2? There’s absolutely no difference, so I don’t really care at all about that,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I’m just excited we get to play in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday.
“… To be a No. 2 seed I think really shows what the nation feels about Iowa women’s basketball and what we’ve put together all year long.”
The Hawkeyes’ closing kick made for an intense debate. In a week’s span to close the regular season and through the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa picked up three wins over teams that earned at least a No. 3 seed Sunday. A buzzer-beater win over Indiana ignited riveting postseason wins over Maryland and Ohio State, leaving the committee with the perfect Iowa image just as the season intensifies.
Having Clark and a rabid fan base doesn’t hurt, either. The likely national player of the year and her veteran Iowa bunch will get another crack at a lengthy NCAA Tournament run, after last season’s seemingly perfect opportunity to do so vanished in a cloud of March emotion. A stunned Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd watched as Creighton snagged Iowa’s Sweet 16 spot in thrilling fashion.
“Before I was in college and actually in March Madness, I was like, Wow, anything really can happen.’ But when you’re playing in it, anything really can happen.” Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall said. “You’re already seeing it. It’s the best time of the year. There are upsets. There are teams who can go on huge runs — literally anything can happen.
“So you really have to have that mindset of any team can beat anyone on any given day. That’s the mindset we’re going to have to have.”
Could a Florida State or Georgia waltz into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and do what the Bluejays did? It seems unlikely given Iowa’s home prowess, but the Hawkeyes aren’t jumping ahead to Seattle before their Iowa City business is finished.
Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com.