The expectations for the Iowa women’s basketball team could not get any higher this season as head coach Lisa Bluder tries to win 20 games for the fourth straight time.
The Hawkeyes also have been to four straight NCAA Tournaments and return four starters from last year’s 21-10 team that advanced to March Madness.
“We’re excited about getting started, just being able to see where we are, then having a week to prepare for the opening season,” Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes will take on Division II Winona State in an exhibition game today at 1 p.m. at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Fans can see both the women’s game and men’s game against Northwest Missouri State at 3:30 p.m. for just $5.
“We haven’t spent a whole lot of time preparing for Winona State,” Bluder said. “We usually don’t with exhibitions. The purpose is to get out there and try different combinations, see how we do against another women’s team.”
Winona State went 21-9 last year including a win at Minnesota. They are led by Michelle McDonald, who averaged 15.8 points per game a season ago.
“This is a good Division II team,” Bluder said. “They did beat Minnesota last year at Minnesota in their exhibition so we know they’re a good team coming in. Kind of interesting angle is that their assistant athletic director is Kristi Smith, who played for us. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to have them in here, we like to bring our former Hawkeyes back. She’s working on her master’s degree.”
The Hawkeyes return four starters from last year’s team and are picked to finish third in the Big Ten Conference this year by the coaches. The media has Iowa on the outside of the top three, but Iowa should be able to compete for a Big Ten championship.
Iowa also brings in the 11th ranked recruiting class in the nation. The class includes five players at five different positions, including McDonald’s All-American Samantha Logic. Logic is the No. 10 ranked recruit in the nation this past season and is expected to start at one of the team’s three guard spots today.
“Here is a freshman that wants the ball in her hands and is willing to take things over,” Bluder said. “I think we have a lot of players that want the ball in their hands at the end of the game. You want those type of kids on your team. You don’t want kids to be shying away from that opportunity.”
Besides Logic — who will be asked to replaced all-Big Ten representative Kachine Alexander — the Iowa starting lineup will look familiar with senior point guard Kamille Wahlin, junior shooting guard Jaime Printy, senior forward Kelly Krei and junior center Morgan Johnson.
Printy led the Hawkeyes in scoring last season at 16.8 points per game but also averaged 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. She is the youngest All-American ever at Iowa as she earned that distinction last year as a sophomore. Printy also was the fastest to score 1,000 points in an Iowa uniform.
The other three starters from last year all averaged close to or better than 10 points per game a season ago. Wahlin will play the point in most situations after averaging 12 points and 3.8 assists per game last year. However, Bluder said both Printy and Logic are capable in that role, which should make pressing the Hawks that much more difficult.
“We have three in our starting lineup that were point guards in high school,” Bluder said. “It’s nice to have that much on the floor, that composure. That person is going to lead the team, the person that’s going to call the offenses, defenses, get people organized. They have a little better sense of the game. I do think it makes us hard to press.”
Johnson is a 6-foot-5 center that is expected to be improved from last year when she averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. Krei is the quietest of the five starters and she returns to the team after averaging 9.3 points and five rebounds last season.
The difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is that this year’s squad has a lot more depth. Bluder did not dig much into her bench last year because of injuries and inexperience. This season, while the starters will still play the bulk of the minutes, Bluder can go to the bench, which features a strong freshmen class and returning contributers Kalli Hansen, Trisha Nesbitt and Theairra Taylor.
This year’s squad also features much more size than a year ago. Besides the 6-foot-5 Johnson, Bluder also has two true freshman in 6-foot-4 Bethany Doolittle and 6-foot-2 Virginia Johnson out of Iowa City that should give Iowa plenty of depth in the post. Hansen also is 5-foot-11.
The Hawkeyes have been to the NCAA Tournament eight times in Bluder’s 11 seasons at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are picked to finish behind Penn State and Purdue in one poll and then picked behind Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State in another one.
“Definitely want to get everybody in the game and give everybody an opportunity to get out on the floor and see what you can do when the spotlight’s on you,” Bluder said about Sunday’s exhibition game against Winona State. “We want to be able to see what we can do against a women’s team both on the offensive and defensive side of things.”
Projected Starting Lineup
Point Guard — Kamille Wahlin, 12 points per game last year
Shooting Guard — Jaime Printy, 17 points per game last year, Returning All-American
Third Guard — Samantha Logic, true freshman ranked No. 10 in the nation as a HS senior
Power Forward — Kelly Krei, 9.3 points and 5 rebounds last year
Center — Morgan Johnson, 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds last season
Top Returning Bench Players
Kalli Hansen — Bluder says this 5-foot-11 forward will play a lot of minutes
Trisha Nesbitt — Guard out of Ames who is expected to be one of the team’s best defensive players. Injured last year.
Theairra Taylor — Will be slowed early due to an injury suffered last year. She has had three torn ACLs in a 20-month span.
Megan Considine — Suffered season-ending injury and will not play this year
Jade Rogers — Cedar Rapids native who also won’t play this season after season-ending injury.
Newcomers (Five True Freshman)
Logic — McDonald’s All-American last year, impressive in Iowa’s foreign trip this summer. Also was Gatorade Player of the Year and Associated Press Player of the Year in Wisconsin.
Virginia Johnson — Iowa City native who came in as No. 62 ranked player in the nation. Will provide depth (6-foot-2) in the post. Nine-time all-state selection in Iowa.
Bethany Doolittle — More depth in the post as she stands 6-foot-4. Miss Minnesota Basketball finalist and four-time all-state selection, including first-team nod last year.
Melissa Dixon — 11-time all-state selection out of Illinois. Top 10 finalist for Miss Illinois Basketball
Kathryn Reynolds — 5-foot-7 guard out of Ohio. Selected to Ohio-Kentucky all-star game as a high school senior.
The Hawkeyes will play 14 teams that made the postseason last year and 10 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including national champion Texas A&M, Iowa State, St. Johns, Northern Iowa, Kansas State and Virginia Tech in the nonconference slate.
Iowa will play Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue and Nebraska twice this season and also has to travel to Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.