“It’s possible this is our last practice,” Hawkeyes guard Kate Martin said as she was breaking the huddle. “Let’s have a great day.”
The finish line is here. No matter what happens, this team will not be playing basketball after Sunday. An adventure with a heart-stopping, buzzer-beating 3 to beat Indiana, another Big Ten tourney title and a Final Four appearance will conclude in Dallas regardless of outcome.
But in order to go out on top, this team has to take down a dynasty. One that hasn’t lost a game since… oh wait, they haven’t this season. The reigning champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
36-0. Dawn Staley, coach of the year. Aliyah Boston: Naismith winner, DPOY. Oh, and oddsmakers are tabbing them an 11.5-point favorite over the team that has Caitlin Clark.
Iowa was a 6-point dog at No. 2 Ohio State in January — and won by 11.
So, why not us? It’s already on a RAYGUN shirt after all.
“I kind of love the underdog mentality,” senior forward McKenna Warnock said. “We’ve done that for the past couple years now and I always think that either way we don’t really look so much at rankings. I didn’t even know that we weren’t favored — I guess that makes sense.”
For Caitlin Clark, it’s a little bit of deja vu.
“I feel like it’s kind of back to like my freshman year when I first got here,” Clark said. “We were the underdogs — nobody really expected us to make the NCAA tournament, and then we advance to the Sweet 16. We’ve been saying all year long, ‘Why not us? Why can’t we do it?'”
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder had a positive approach to the matter.
“Everybody loves an underdog, right?” Coach Bluder said. “Everybody cheers for the underdog. I know a lot of Hawkeye fans weren’t able to get tickets and that’s too bad. We’re going to feel a lot of love for the TV audience that’s here but I’m hoping we can convert some local Dallas Texans to be to Hawkeye fans, y’all.”
I think Coach Bluder just created the Texas version of “Cy-Hawk.” Regardless, this team is embracing the opportunity in front of them with a relaxed, joyful and optimistic approach.
As a fan, I encourage you, embrace this moment with this team while you still can. You may never cheer for a Hawkeye team as sublime as the one you’re about see tomorrow. Whatever happens, enjoy it.
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