Iowa’s first opponent wasn’t determined until Thursday night, but coach Lisa Bluder has her team ready for anything it may have to deal with at the Big Ten Championships.
In this instance, anything includes the possibility of the second-seeded Hawkeyes needing to cut down the nets following Sunday’s title game at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Bluder had her players climbing ladders following practice at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, each taking scissors to the nets to simulate one of the spoils of winning a championship.
"I’ve done it several times during my career," Bluder said Thursday. "I wanted to give our players the experience of what it feels like to be a champion, put that visualization in their minds."
It’s not something Bluder does regularly, but she does believe the simulation helps create a mindset as her team readies for the start of postseason play.
"It gives them an idea of what is on the line, and hopefully we will be in a position to do it," Bluder said.
Iowa last won the Big Ten tourney title in 2001, Bluder’s first season on the Hawkeye bench.
The work of earning the actual tourney title begins at 5:30 p.m. today, when 10th-ranked Iowa (23-6) faces Indiana (20-11) in a quarterfinal match-up.
The Hoosiers defeated Minnesota by a 66-58 score Thursday in second-round play, leaving the Hawkeyes with a 20-win opponent for its tourney opener. Indiana is the only Big Ten team Iowa has not beaten this season, losing on a shot in the final seconds last month in Bloomington.
"We know we’re opening with a good opponent," Bluder said.
Iowa players received their first full scouting report on their tourney-opening opponent around 9 p.m. Thursday night.
"It’s been a little different this week, not really knowing who we will play, but we’ve had a good week of practice," Bluder said. "We went at it hard Monday and Tuesday and then gave them Wednesday off. It was a productive couple of days."
Iowa played both Minnesota and Indiana just once during the regular season, both on the road, and the Hawkeyes’ practice focus this week has been centered on common traits of the potential opponents and Iowa’s readiness for the next portion of the season.
"The challenge we’ve presented to them is that it really is 0-0 now, and as a two seed, we have a target on back that we need to be ready to deal with," Bluder said. "We’re going to get everybody’s best shot."
With an NCAA berth secure — Iowa was a two seed in the NCAA selection committee’s final reveal on Monday — success in Indianapolis this weekend will only help solidify that situation.
Bluder believes experience found in a starting five that includes three seniors and two juniors is Iowa’s biggest asset.
"We have the talent to do it, and our goal going into this is to win a Big Ten championship, three wins in three days," Bluder said. "Other teams have the pressure of needing wins to get into the NCAA tourney. We just need to go play."