Questions for Iowa women's basketball
Today marks the first official day of practice for the Iowa Women’s Basketball team and their first game, an exhibition against Nebraska-Kearney is just 32 days away. Expectations are sky high, as they return the entire starting five from a team that went 24-8 last season, while winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Despite the expectations, there are a few questions that need to be answered going into the season. We take a look at the four biggest questions here.
1. Defensive and Rebounding Improvement?
This is the storyline that has followed the Hawkeyes over the past couple of seasons. They have no issue putting the ball in the basket, which is evidenced by the fact that the team has finished ranked 2nd in scoring each of the last two seasons and had the nation’s leading scorer in Caitlin Clark.
However, they have had trouble keeping teams from putting the ball in the basket themselves and at times have struggled to keep teams from getting second, third and fourth opportunities off of rebounds. From 2021 to 2022, the Iowa defense showed marked improvement. They went from allowing 80.3 ppg to 70.2 ppg, but that moved them from 336th (last) to just 306th in the country. Even a 5.0 point improvement from last season to this year would jump the Hawkeyes up to 200th in the rankings and in a much better position to reach their goals.
Part of making another improvement will include better defensive rebounding. Last season the Hawkeyes allowed 12.5 offensive rebounds per game and 384 second chance points on the season. If Iowa wants to make a run to the Final Four, they will have to improve in those categories.
2. Guard depth off of the bench?
Tomi Taiwo (17.4 mins) and Kylie Feuerbach (14.6 mins) were the main guards off the bench last season, but Taiwo transferred to TCU over the offseason. Lisa Bluder went to the transfer portal and brought in MAC All-Conference selection G Molly Davis to fill the void. For a moment, the Hawkeyes looked set to go, but Kylie Feuerbach tore her ACL back in early August, which raises some questions.
Caitlin Clark, Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin will be the starters and Molly Davis played in 81 games at Central Michigan. After that, the Hawkeyes will rely on some inexperienced options. Sophomore Sydney Affolter played in 19 games last season, but averaged 9.4 minutes and logged more than five minutes in just one game that wasn’t decided by double digits. The other guard on the bench will be true freshman Taylor McCabe. She was named the Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior and broke the state record for three-point makes in a career.
It will be interesting to follow minutes and lineups on the court over the first few games, but Affolter and McCabe will be relied on to play big minutes early in the season as, even as they build up experience.
3. How are the minutes split out at center?
Last year, Monika Czinano averaged 28.7 minutes per game, while true freshman Addison O’Grady showed plenty of promise during her 10.0 minutes per game. Now the group gets even more crowded with the previously injured Sharon Goodman working her way back into the fold.
As a true freshman in 2021, Goodman filled the same role that O’Grady did last season. She played in every game and averaged 8.7 minutes per game, while Czinano averaged 29.6 minutes per game. Here is how some of the stats break down for the three centers…
Monika Czinano: 29.48 pts/40 mins
Sharon Goodman: 17.10 pts/40 mins (2021)
Addison O’Grady: 16.43 pts/40 mins
Addison O’Grady: 10.03 reb/40 mins
Sharon Goodman: 9.73 reb/40 mins (2021)
Monica Czinano: 8.58 reb/40 mins
It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles getting all three players minutes. Czinano is by far and away the best option because of her ability to score as efficiently as anyone in the country, but this team lacks strong rebounding. That is where Goodman and O’Grady are statistically better than Czinano. At forward, McKenna Warnock has slightly better rebounding per 40-minute numbers than Czinano and true freshman Hannah Stuelke has been raved about by players and coaches. She could be a rebounder at the forward spot as well.
4. Does Monika Czinano get the recognition she deserves?
Lindy’s recently released their preseason Top 25 and All-American teams. While the Hawkeyes came in at #5 overall and Caitlin Clark was a First Team All-American, Monika Czinano was not acknowledged across their three teams. Frankly, it’s a ridiculous omission.
Over the last three seasons, Czinano has done nothing but put the ball in the basket and at a high level. In 2020, she led the Big Ten and was second in the country with a 67.9% shooting percentage. 2021, she led the country with a 66.8% shooting percentage. Last season, she once again led the country with a 67.9% shooting percentage and shot 75.6% from the floor over her last 10 games of the season. On the national stage, all she has to show for it is a Lisa Leslie Center of the Year semifinalist and All-American honorable mention selection. Both came last season.
Monika is arguably the best post scorer in the entire country and it will be nearly impossible for AP and WBCA voters to ignore her if she puts together another season like the last three.