March 17, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa women's basketball team is ready to dance. The Hawkeyes face California on Sunday morning in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Hawkeyes (19-11), a No. 9 seed, face the eighth-seeded Golden Bears (24-9) at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind., beginning at 11:10 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
Iowa will be making its fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Hawkeye seniors have "danced" every year of their careers and have been quick to share their experiences with their freshman teammates.
"The coaches and upperclassmen have said it is a lot more physical," said freshman Samantha Logic, a member of the Big Ten's All-Freshman team. "It is a little different, the Big Ten is pretty physical, but fouls called in the Big Ten will not get called in the tournament. We have to keep our composure. We know Cal is pretty physical, and we have to be ready for that."
"We opened it up and let the upperclassmen address the freshmen about their experiences and what it means to be in the NCAA Tournament," said UI head coach Lisa Bluder, who has guided the Hawkeyes to nine NCAA Tournament appearances in her 12 seasons. "The coaches chimed in about protocol, the intensity and the physical style of play that is different from the regular season."
The freshmen, who grew up dreaming of playing in the NCAA Tournament, could not be more excited to experience the event during their rookie campaign.
"It is going to be a great experience," said center Bethany Doolittle. "Getting to experience being one of the top 64 teams in the nation and being able to compete against other top teams is great."
"I am really excited for this opportunity," said Logic. "I don't think, personally, it has hit me yet. It will definitely hit me once we get to South Bend."
In many instances, freshman often select schools based on the school's history of tournament appearances.
"I think for freshmen it would be very comforting as to think, 'I made the right choice,'" said Bluder about what it means for freshmen to appear in the tournament in their first years. "It kind of confirms that.
"At the same time, it lets them know that this is the standard for the program. We have done this five years in a row, and now they have to assume more of the responsibility of getting back there in the years to come."
Bluder noted the difficulty of reaching the tournament year-in-and-year-out and being among the top 20 percent of collegiate basketball programs.
Each visit to the dance is a special experience.
"As a player you feel special to be there and be a part of it," said Bluder. "Seeing the NCAA banner with your name on it is always great."
Check hawkeyesports.com for full coverage of Iowa's fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.