By Sean Bock
The men’s basketball team was expected to be the team to watch in Carver-Hawkeye this winter.
As the men’s squad has had more downs than ups to start the season, there’s another Iowa team that is on the rise.
Coming into the season, a lot of people assumed Iowa would struggle beause of the loss of Hawkeye all-time leading scorer Ally Disterhoft.
There’s no doubt whether the Hawkeyes miss Disterhoft, but at 10-1 through the first 11 games, I’d say Bluder’s Bunch are holding their own and then some.
The Iowa women’s hoops team is on the cusp of the national rankings and rightfully so.
In last week’s AP Poll, the Hawkeyes received 26 votes, and they followed that with a convincing victory over Iowa State on Dec. 7 and a dismantling of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 9.
Iowa’s only loss on the season is against No. 10 Florida State, 94-93, in a game in which they shot above 55 percent from the field but blew a 10-point lead with five minutes to go.
That in mind, there’s a chance this group could see a 1-25 number next to their name sooner rather than later.
“It’s kind of like validation of what you believe in your team,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Even if we’re not in there, we believe we’re a top-25 team, and that’s what matters. But it’s certainly nice when people recognize the work that you’re doing and the success that your team’s been having.”
The Hawkeyes are eighth in the nation in scoring, third in field-goal percentage, and first in assists, while the second-place team is dishing out 1.5 fewer per game.
On game day, the mats at Carver are down to make it seem the arena is packed to full capacity.
Before we know it, those mats will be raised, as the arena should be packed for every game here on out.
Though this team prides itself on sharing the ball and playing an unselfish brand of basketball, it doesn’t hurt to have one of the best forwards in the nation manning the middle.
Megan Gustafson, the 6-3 junior forward, has been nothing short of spectacular this season. She averages 21.2 points and 12.4 rebounds a game and is ranked second in the land in field-goal percentage at 69.6 percent.
“In my opinion, Megan is putting up All-American numbers,” Bluder said. “Playing the Big Ten and playing the strength of schedule that we do, I don’t know how you couldn’t have her in the conversation of that. What does she need to improve on? I don’t know. She just needs to keep doing what she’s been doing. People usually look at statistics when it comes to that award, and her statistics defiantly garner that attention.”
Gustafson is no doubt thrilled about all the high praise she has been getting, but she’d be the first to tell you, without her teammates, she wouldn’t be in this position.
And that narrative is what describes this Iowa team.
In the game of basketball, often the best teams are the ones that don’t have the superstars. Sometimes, it’s just a bunch of average joes who aren’t the most talented but have great chemistry and know how to play the game the right way.
Well, with this crew, everyone brings something positive to the floor, and they know how to play well together.
Conference season, which is considered the real season by many, is just around the corner.
Don’t be surprised to see this team at the top of the Big Ten come March.