Continuity. Chemistry. Consistency. And a little Caitlin Clark never hurts. The starting five of Clark, Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin, McKenna Warnock and Monika Czinano have been tied at the hip for three years.

Their resume: Pretty good. A Sweet 16 appearance in 2021 and a round of 32 shortcoming in 2022. But 2023? The best has come for Lisa Bluder’s bunch, who have advanced to the Elite 8 for the fifth time in program history and second in Bluder’s tenure.

“I think it just speaks to how old this group is and how much we played together,” Clark told me. “I feel like we’ve been in every situation possible that you can be put in, whether it’s practice, whether it’s in-game moments — you know, we’ve had hard losses, tough wins, things like that. So, I think this group never gets too up or down. We always stay pretty steady — when things don’t go our way or things are going great. They’re gonna come out and give everything they have and they really did to the end. But I think more than anything, it just speaks to this group’s maturity. And, you know, your approach to game.”

This group overcame its second round woes from last year. It withstood every punch Georgia and Colorado threw at the Hawkeyes’ beak. Just like they did against Maryland in the Big Ten tournament, this team can withstand a run, regroup and get the job done.

“I think it’s super huge, especially down the stretch in games,” Czinano said. “Not only kind of knowing that aspect of it, but just knowing each other so much. We know what kind of drives each other, what each other needs to hear kind of when they’re lacking confidence, and all those different moments, but I think it’s helped us be a unified front out there, no matter what’s happening.”

“I think it’s all the collective experiences,” Warnock said. “I mean, we’ve been together for three years now, started every game together. And I think that that just puts so much emphasis on how far we are. And it kind of shows why we’ve been able to get to this point.”

I asked Bluder about the team’s emotional maturity at her press conference today, her response was one that encapsulated the culture of the program:

“Experience is a good teacher,” Bluder said. “It also lets you build culture. When you spend this much time together it helps you build relationships. That’s one of the things I think is not great about the portal. People are hopping around — it doesn’t give you time to build relationships. We have that. And sometimes that culture — that ‘I’ve got your back’ can help a lot in situations that are pressure filled.”

And the great Lisa Bluder also once said, “Pressure is a privilege.” And the Hawkeyes have handled it perfectly this postseason.

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