Nov. 4, 2010
"Well, election day is over, the fertilizer ads are back on (television) and here it is exhibition season," smiled Iowa's veteran head coach, who has plenty of reason to smile.
Sure, the Hawkeyes have lost a couple of important players to injury, but have more than enough left on the bench - and back from the team's amazing run at the end of the 2009-10 season - to find themselves in unfamiliar territory entering the season: Nationally ranked and the hunted versus the hunter.
"It's a credit to our players for what they did last year," Bluder said about the preseason rankings, No. 22 by USA Today and No. 25 by Associated Press.
"And it's a recognition that all five of our players are back. Now, it's up to our players and our staff, obviously, working hard to maintain that and to keep climbing higher in those polls. It's great recognition that doesn't mean anything, really. We want to be there at the end of the year."
Iowa gets one step closer to the end of the year Sunday at 1 p.m. when the Hawkeyes open the doors to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for their fans for the first time this season and for Concordia of St. Paul, Minn. It's been a long road since the start of practice on Oct. 4 and one that, Bluder says, her team is ready to exit from.
"Believe me, the players are tired of hearing my voice. They're ready to have some real officials. They're ready to go against somebody else," Bluder said.
After Concordia, it's a trip to Corpus Christi, Texas and two games in the Islander Tip-Off Tournament next weekend before the regular season opener Nov. 16 against Bradley. Game time for that contest - a late addition to the Hawkeyes' home schedule - is set for 5 p.m. The Iowa men's team entertains Louisiana-Monroe the same night in a rare regular season college basketball doubleheader in Iowa City.
"This one doesn't count," Bluder said of Sunday's exhibition. "But we always compete to win and we want somebody to show us where our weaknesses are."