Inside Iowa Basketball with Karen Schulte

HN.com's resident women's basketball expert checks in with her analysis of Iowa's near miss against No. 2 Ohio State, Thursday's matchup against No. 9 Michigan State, what the Hawkeyes need to do to hear their name called on Selection Sunday and more in this premium Q&A.

What did you take out of the Ohio State game?

There was a lot to be gained from that game. The Hawkeyes did a pretty good job of picking up positive things from it.

Obviously, they showed that they can compete with some of the best teams in the nation. What I liked was that Iowa at time dictated what Ohio State was able to do offensively by the intensity of the Hawkeyes' defense. That was something that we haven't seen very often. It really took Ohio State out of the game and forced them into a poor shot selection.

Iowa also did a tremendous job no the boards. They outrebounded the Buckeyes, and that's a good sign as well. They showed that they have gone back to some of those basic fundamentals of defense and rebounding.

There were signs of some really good offensive production. It was a combination of hitting 3-pointers from the outside and balancing that with the presence of Jamie Cavey on the inside. The Hawkeyes did a nice job of getting her the ball. They showed that they could put together moments of momentum.

What is frustrating is that while there are positives I don't think you can settle for a moral victory. Everybody who was there watching or playing in the game realizes that Iowa could have and should have won that game.

Without those long scoring droughts, Iowa was in a position to do something amazing there; knock off a team that hasn't lost but twice all season. Unfortunately, the mental toughness kind of slipped away, and Ohio State was able to overcome that.

The Hawkeyes have put two solid game together for the first time in a while. Talking to the players, where do you think they are in terms of confidence?

It was their second time against Northwestern and Ohio State. And the rest of the games on their schedule will be the second time they've faced these opponents.

They seem to be coming in better prepared by having the advantage of having played these teams. In the second meetings, it seems like Iowa is the team that shows more progress. That's a positive.

The team and the coaches say they're confident. That's what they're supposed to say. But having that translate into on-court execution is quite another thing.

They've been saying all season they're confident. But yet, when teams make runs at them they get that deer in the headlights look. They get a little shell shocked and nobody steps up; nobody emerges or takes control of those moments that can keep them from a tailspin.

I would like to think they're confident. And I think they're hopeful. They're positive that they can compete and play well.

But confidence is knowing you're going to win and not even considering that you're going to lose. I don't know if they're at that point yet.

Thursday, they get a second shot at No. 9 Michigan State. What do the Hawkeyes have to do to get over the hump and beat one of these Big Ten giants?

I really feel, and I heard Coach Bluder validate my feelings, that Iowa matches up so much better with Ohio State than they do with Michigan State. Michigan State has a great offensive balance. And they play the 2-3 matchup zone that disturbed Iowa at East Lansing and forced them into a lot of quick outside shots.

Iowa really needs to set the tempo. They need to play very controlled. They need to wear down that Spartan defense. They can not take a bunch of shots with only five or 10 seconds off of the shot clock. They need to make Michigan State play defense for 30 seconds.

They need to work the ball around to make good passing decisions by breaking down that zone. A lot of people think that you break down a zone by hitting your shots from the outside. That's part of it.

But you need to make passes around the perimeter to find a way to make that entry pass to Cavey. Maybe it's a skip pass, and then before the defense has a chance to get around Cavey, let her flash across the lane. Maybe she's used to setting up on the right side, well get her on the left side.

You can't succumb to Michigan State's tempo. Michigan State loves to shoot from outside, but they can also push the ball up the floor very well. Iowa cannot get into a fast-paced game. Not that Michigan State is a very athletic team. Ohio State is much more athletic, but Michigan State is a better basketball team.

They're very smart. They make good decisions. They take advantage of the opponent's weaknesses.

How would you classify this game as it relates to the Hawkeyes' NCAA Tournament chances?

I would say that a win takes a lot of pressure off. I don't like us going into the last three games (needing to run the table) regardless of who it is or where they are in the conference standings, that's a lot of pressure to put on a team that has very little postseason experience.

If Iowa could finally beat somebody that they're not supposed to beat...and that's been a problem. They haven't had that. In year's passed, we've always had an amazing win somewhere. That hasn't happened yet this year.

If they beat Michigan State, the confidence from that game can help them finish out the regular season strong and maybe make them that much better for the Big Ten Tourney. Then, if you have a mess up against at Michigan or at home against Illinois, you're not hoping and praying that last week; you're not putting all that extra added pressure on your players.

Michigan State has won six in a row. They're very good. But you'd like to think that somebody can beat them. Iowa has as good a shot as anybody.

Is there a magic number in terms of a victory total that the Hawkeyes need to achieve to gain admittance into the NCAAs?

You've got to finish even in the conference. If the Hawks end up being the sixth seed going into the Big Ten Tournament but have a 7-9 record, even though the Big Ten is god, I think they take five.

And Coach Bluder said it, we've got to get three more wins. If we get four, it's a lock. If we have three, we're probably 95 percent certain that we'll get an invite. Anything less than three, you're hoping and praying you can pick up two wins in Indianapolis (at the Big Ten Tournament).

If you got that sixth seed, like it looks the Hawks will get, they'll get the 11 seed in round one and one of the top tier teams in round two.

They way that I look at it, based upon what they've done this season, the Hawkeyes aren't going to win the Big Ten Tournament. They're not going to come away undefeated through those games in Indianapolis.

It's better for them to be the sixth seed. They get to play another game and actually pick up a win. You win one for sure and maybe win two and then even if you lose you still have gained two victories.

As it stands right now, it would be Michigan the first game and Penn State the second. But even though there are only four more games left in the regular season, there's still a lot of shuffling that could happen near the top.


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