Iowa/ND: Two Programs In Two Different Places

By Jeff Linder, Reporter

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talks to her team during a timeout during the second half of their Round One NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament game against Miami at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won, 69-53, to advance to play Notre Dame in Round Two. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa — There’s no Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. No LaSalle or Wichita State.

“There’s just not the parity in women’s basketball as there is in men’s basketball right now, and that’s unfortunate,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.

What there is: A well-defined upper crust.

Notre Dame is among those striving to stay among the nation’s elite. Iowa is among those in the upper-middle class, pushing to make a move.

“It’s a job that’s 24/7, 12 months a year, never ends, to go from one class to the next,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “You have to continue to bring in elite-level players in order to sustain that.”

The first round of the women’s tournament was basically a chalkfest, with the favorites winning and the elite — No. 1 seeds Baylor, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Stanford — winning big.

Kansas-over-Colorado, a No. 12 seed over a No. 5, was the only upset in the opening round.

Ninth-seeded Iowa (21-12) plays top-seed Notre Dame in a Norfolk Region second-rounder Tuesday, and it would take a major upset for the Hawkeyes to topple the Irish.

“Obviously for our program, it would be amazing,” Bluder said. “Also, I do think it would be great for women’s basketball.

“I think people want the upsets. People get excited about the Florida Gulf Coasts (in the men’s tournament), and why not let them get excited about the Iowa Hawkeyes after (Tuesday) night?”

Notre Dame reached its first women’s Final Four in 1997, then won its lone national title in 2001. The Irish slid a bit for a few years, then reclaimed elite status with back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2012.

“I think it is difficult to sustain,” McGraw said. “We got there in 2001, and it took us a little while to get back.

“I think we are back there now because of our recruiting. We are getting more McDonald’s All-Americans on our team. It’s always been about chemistry more than talent, and there are some top players in the country that we don’t really want on our team. We want them to fit in and play well together and be unselfish and team-oriented.”

Iowa has one McDonald’s All-American on its current roster, sophomore Samantha Logic.

To become an elite program, Bluder said a team must be consistent all season.

“If you’re consistent all year long, then you tend to get those top-four seeds, and we all know if we have those top-four seeds, our ability to advance in the NCAA Tournament is a lot stronger, a lot more likely.

“Notre Dame certainly has that. They score at an unbelievable rate and they defend too.”

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