Iowa ladies are loaded for Big Ten, led by Clark and Czinano


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Monika Czinano solely wanted just a few days to finalize her resolution to play a fifth season for Iowa.

With the sting of dropping within the second spherical of the NCAA Tournament nonetheless contemporary, the enjoyable of taking part in for the close-knit and well-supported Hawkeyes was the one feeling that might override it.

With celebrity level guard Caitlin Clark main the best way for a 3rd yr in black and gold, Czinano and the remainder of her teammates are revved as much as go effectively past only a protection of their Big Ten title.

“It’s just such a family here. It’s something that I wasn’t ready to give up,” Czinano mentioned Tuesday in Minneapolis at Target Center, the place the convention took its males’s and ladies’s basketball media days this yr. “It would feel weird if I wasn’t there.”

The Hawkeyes have been the consensus favourite within the Big Ten preseason polls. Ohio State was picked second by the coaches and third by the media. Indiana additionally took second (media) and third (coaches). Maryland completed fourth in each surveys.

Clark, who final season turned the primary NCAA Division I participant to steer the nation in each factors and assists per recreation, was the simple choose for Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. Czinano, who was third within the convention in scoring in 2021-22 and led the nation in subject objective proportion, joined Clark on the 10-player preseason all-star staff.

Opponents have routinely been overwhelmed by Clark’s 3-point vary and slick passing expertise, however the taking pictures contact and confidence Czinano performs with is one other important asset for a Hawkeyes staff that drew a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament earlier than being upset by No. 10 seed Creighton.

“I feel like I get better every time we play Iowa, just because of the way that Czinano challenges me in the post,” Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes mentioned. “She’s a great competitor, so I have a lot of respect.”

Clark has turn into one of many faces of her sport, having simply signed an NIL take care of Nike with 4 different school basketball gamers together with Bronny James.

“When you have WNBA stars and NBA stars reacting to your game, that’s pretty cool. Those are people I grew up watching and idolizing,” Clark mentioned. “But at the same time I’m still the same person going out and doing what I love every single day. That just brings so much joy to me, and I hope I never lose that. I don’t play for the attention or for people to tweet about me. I play because I love it. I play because I get to play with my best friends.”

That contains Czinano, who labored tirelessly to enhance her shot — “It was terrible,” coach Lisa Bluder mentioned — between her first and second seasons after taking part in behind star Megan Gustafson as a freshman. Czinano, a local of Watertown, Minnesota, is eligible for the fifth yr due to the NCAA’s waiver of the 2020-21 pandemic season.

“She definitely wasn’t highly recruited. We saw something in her, though, that we really liked, and that was that she embraced contact. So many bigs these days do not want to embrace contact,” Bluder mentioned. “They want to be out shooting 3s. I’m old school.”

The Big Ten picked Target Center for media days to plug the first-time host of the ladies’s match in March. None of the 14 head coaches who stood behind a podium have been extra buoyant than Bluder, who has begun her twenty third season on the job with the Hawkeyes.

Part of that palpable optimism is character. Part of that’s gamers.

Not solely have they got a primary staff All-American in Clark and among the finest publish gamers within the nation in Czinano, however their three different starters — McKenna Warnock, Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall — are additionally again. Iowa has not been to the Final Four since 1993.

“I told the team the other day when we were picked as the No. 1 team in the preseason in the Big Ten that that can be a lot of pressure, but it can also be something that’s really enjoyable,” Bluder mentioned. “You’ve earned this.”

Success received’t come mechanically, in fact, notably within the top-heavy Big Ten. If Creighton can beat them, so can Indiana, Ohio State, Maryland and nearly anyone else within the convention.

“It’s definitely still motivating us. We get it brought up in practice a fair amount, especially if we miss a few boxouts here and there,” Martin mentioned. “We have that sour taste in our mouth from last year. We’re moving on from last year, but it’s good to look back on that to motivate us and get us right so we don’t ever have to feel that feeling ever again.”

Taking the courtroom at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in entrance of 15,000 followers is a significantly better feeling. The Hawkeyes have been third within the nation final season in attendance.

“It’s a special place. We’re lucky to play there,” Clark mentioned. “We’re lucky to have their fan support, and I imagine there’s going to be more than three sellouts this year in Iowa City.”


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