I won’t sit here and write too many words about next year for the Iowa women’s basketball team, as Jeff Linder from The Gazette did a fine job of that in this piece, where he cited that over 98% of Iowa’s scoring returns for next year, which is more than any team in the country except the one who beat Iowa on Saturday, #1 UConn.
Yeah, the Huskies are going to be a problem. They are stacked full of athletes and they have the nation’s #1 recruit in Azzi Fudd, the nation’s #5 recruit in Caroline Ducharme and the nation’s #15 recruit in Aubryanna Hall joining their ranks this coming fall.
However, the Hawkeyes are adding to their roster, too. UConn had a marked advantage in the post against Iowa, and Iowa’s new recruits will help in that area.
The Hawkeyes signed their second consecutive Top 20 recruiting class this past fall, and will be adding a pair of four-star prospects next year in the nation’s #39th ranked recruit in 6-3 post Allison Ediger along with the nation’s 92nd ranked player in post Addison O’Grady. Both players are 6-3, and will be joined by guard Sydney Affolter of Chicago (Marist).
Obviously, the Hawkeyes return the most exciting player in the nation in Caitlin Clark, who led the country in scoring at 26.6 points per game. Her 799 points scored in 30 games was the 10th best single season total in league history. She has a shot to break the league record for the fewest games to get to 1,000 points; that record is 41. She made 116 treys this year, which is the 8th highest total in a single season in Big Ten history, with the record being 129. Her 116 threes this year were the most in the nation by 19 over the player in second. I think she stands a good chance of breaking that record. If she stays healthy, she could be the second leading scorer all time in league history, with a stretch to get to #1. By the way, she also led the Big Ten and nation in assists. She is a transcendent player, but she is hardly alone.
Monika Czinano (a junior) was the 4th leading scorer in the Big Ten this year at 19.3 points per game and made 66.84% of her shots, which led the nation, and McKenna Warnock (sophomore) was the 5th leading rebounder.
It’s hard to know exactly what the rest of the Big Ten’s rosters are going to look like. Maryland was the class of the league this year and two of their top four scorers are listed as seniors. Indiana was just behind Maryland and two of their top four scorers are seniors as well. However, the COVID-19 year could loom here and those two teams could be stacked again.
Iowa finished 20-10 this year and four of those losses came to Maryland and Indiana. Five of the other six losses came against nationally ranked teams (including #1 UConn), with a loss to Michigan State, that Iowa would later avenge, being their only slip up against a team that was not ranked.
The Hawkeyes will very likely be ranked heading into next season and with Clark’s star rising exponentially during the past two weeks, Iowa’s profile also took a huge step forward. Stars from the past help to lay the foundation to where a Caitlin Clark chose to stay home and play for the in-state school…now, the next opportunity is to take that next step where Iowa can be a program that reloads and is typically in the mix for a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 run is the next step.
They have been to three Sweet 16’s in the past four years, so it’s not like they are an out of nowhere program. However, to get beyond that Sweet 16, they will need to put together a better in-season resume to earn a three-seed or better to avoid the UConn’s and Maryland’s of the world until at least the round of eight.
With a star like Clark leading the way, plus very talented teammates already on the roster and more talent on the way (including 2022 four-star commit Hannah Stuelke from Cedar Rapids and Urbandale Guard Jada Gyamfi), a move like that seems realistic, if not probable, over the span of the next two or three years.