IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa women’s basketball team has known the when and where regarding its NCAA Tournament fate for weeks. Monday, the Hawkeyes finally found out the who part of their first-round future.
Iowa (26-8) earned a No. 6 seed and will host 11th-seeded Marist (27-6) on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
“They were talking about it on TV, about how people aren’t as worried as much about the seed but more about where they are playing, and it was really the opposite for us because we knew we were hosting,” freshman Ally Disterhoft said. “It was just waiting to see what seed we would be, and we are pleased with this. A six seed is big.”
Iowa players still let out a cheer Monday when the Hawkeyes were announced a sixth seed in the Louisville region.
But the reaction also included some reliefm as Iowa avoided an eight or nine seed and a likely second-round matchup with one of the four top seeds.
As the sixth seed, Iowa would face the winner of Sunday’s other first-round matchup between third-seeded Louisville (30-4), last year’s NCAA runner-up, and No. 14 seed Idaho (25-8).
Iowa was a ninth seed in last year’s NCAA tournament defeating Miami in the opening round last season in Iowa City before being knocked out of the tournament by No. 1 seed Notre Dame.
“To avoid the eight or nine like in previous years is huge,” Disterhoft said. “We are happy with this and are excited for the opportunity.”
No. 19 Iowa is making its seventh consecutive NCAA appearance and 11th in 14 years under coach Lisa Bluder.
This matches Iowa’s second-highest seeding under Bluder. The Hawkeyes were a No. 4 seed in Bluder’s first season at Iowa in 2001 and were a six-seed in 2011.
Iowa will now try to advance past the second round for the first time in Bluder’s 14 seasons at Iowa. That’ll be a challenge, considering Louisville likely awaits. Three of the Cardinals’ four losses came to No. 1 seed Connecticut.
“I felt like we were probably going to be a six going into this, so I guess that isn’t a big surprise,” Bluder said. “You look ahead — and you never want to look too far ahead — but you look ahead to Louisville and you think they probably supposed to be two seed, and that’s a little disheartening. But the main thing is we have to really focus on Marist.
“You’ve got to win the first one first.”
Marist, of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, has won 16 straight games. The Red Foxes are making their ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance and have won five NCAA tournament games.
“I don’t know a lot about Marist, and that will be different tomorrow. But I think they are very similar to us,” Bluder said. “They average five in double figures, which is very unusual.
They are a good 3-point shooting team. It looks like they are a good defensive team that holds people to 60.”
Iowa has won 12 of its last 15 games entering the NCAA Tournament.
The 26 wins this season are the most wins for a Bluder-coached team at Iowa and the most for any Iowa team since the Hawkeyes went 27-4 in 1995-96, the last season Iowa advanced to the Sweet 16.
“I think we’re playing our best right now, and that’s always what you want,” junior Melissa Dixon said. “You want to be peaking at this time of year, and we are excited to get back out and play.”