If you ever get the chance to hear Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder talk, you probably know that she is never in a bad mood. Her excitement for her team, her sport and her program is pushed to the top every single time she speaks.
This year, that excitement level may be taken even further as four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team return. The Hawkeyes also have the 11th best recruiting class in the nation coming in, a much deeper bench and an assortment of talent all over the court.
“We have so much to be excited about with this season,” Bluder said. “You can tell we have a lot of confidence in this group of women. We may have a little yin and yang to our season, but I really can’t wait to see how this season unfolds.”
The yin and yang that Bluder is referring to is the fact that she has plenty of experience returning but also has plenty of youth coming in. And the players who are not experienced and not true freshmen coming in are returning to the lineup after suffering injuries last season.
The program has hit the 20-win mark in four straight seasons and has been to the NCAA Tournament in all of those years. This year, it is safe to say that the streaks will be extended to five.
Leading the way this season will be senior point guard Kamille Wahlin, junior shooting guard Jaime Printy, senior forward Kelly Krei and junior center Morgan Johnson. The only starter not back this season is guard Kachine Alexander, who was a double-double machine for the Hawkeyes the past three seasons.
“People keep asking me what I feel about the season coming up, and when I think about it, I kind of think of the yin and the yang of our season,” Bluder said. “Everybody says, oh, ‘my gosh, you lost Kachine,’ but we return four starters. That’s pretty good. Then you think, okay, they’re a real veteran team, but we have five freshmen on this team. That’s a lot of freshmen. But then you think of those freshmen, and those freshmen are pretty darn good.”
Those freshmen will be asked to do a lot this season and take some pressure off the returning starters. The best true freshman coming in is Samantha Logic, a highly touted guard out of Racine, Wisconsin. She was a high school All-American last season and made a big impact in the team’s overseas trip this summer.
“Sam can really play any position we want her to play,” Bluder said. “We are still trying to play with her role because she was a point guard in high school. With Kamille, we don’t need her to play point guard, but we will need her to be on the court. This summer, she started with us at the three position. But in my opinion, she can play the one, two, three or four.”
Bluder has not given a starting lineup yet, but if the season started today her starters would be Wahlin, Printy, Logic, Krei and Johnson. But she knows the next five players and beyond will be important.
“It is the youngest group we have had in awhile, but I do think it is one of the more talented groups of people coming off the bench. That’s what we saw in Europe that was so much fun is that you could just keep bringing weapons off the bench, and they bring a different dimension, too, when they come in.”
In a long season, depth always comes into play. But for Iowa to be successful, Bluder is going to need her returning starters to lead the way. That means Jaime Printy is going to be as good or better than she was a season ago. She has already been named to the Wade Watch List and the John Wooden Watch List this preseason. So expectations for the former Linn-Mar High School (Marion, Iowa) standout are bigger than ever.
“You always have high hopes for your players when you recruit them, but I don’t think you sit here and think they’re going to be Wade Watch or John Wooden when you recruit them,” Bluder said. “You just hope that every player comes in here and develops into their potential and becomes the best they can be, and I think Jaime is doing that.”
Bluder thinks Penn State and Purdue are the favorites to win the hotly-contested Big Ten championship. The Nittany Lions also won 20 games last year and also return four starters from their NCAA Tournament squad. Purdue won 21 games despite playing with several injuries and illnesses.
“I think those two teams are definitely the favorites,” Bluder said. “Penn State, I think they could be a top-eight team in the country this year. I think they’re that good. And Purdue, I mean, they just have so many weapons. They’re so athletic. I think they’re extremely loaded, as well.”