Iowa basketball teams gain attention after success in March

Pictured+is+the+Cy-Hawk+trophy+that+Iowa+and+Iowa+State+compete+for+annually+in+sports+competitions+against+one+another.

Sidney Brockmann

Pictured is the Cy-Hawk trophy that Iowa and Iowa State compete for annually in sports competitions against one another.

Sidney Brockmann and Bryce Rubel

In Iowa, the Midwest and beyond, sports are some of the most highly celebrated aspects of American culture. The recent success of college basketball teams in Iowa has captivated attention towards both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Many people take pride in seeing their state represented in nationwide tournaments. Not only are Iowa and Iowa State represented in the tournaments, but they are finding success while competing in them. 

The Iowa men’s basketball team had many doubts at the start of the season after losing three starters from the previous year. The Hawkeyes entered the year with plans of building for future years but that quickly changed as a new star, Keegan Murray, emerged.

Murray was recruited to Iowa and provided rotation minutes to a top 10 Hawkeye team last year. This year, Murray became the main man for Iowa as he started receiving national attention for his breakout season. Averaging over 23 points a game, Keegan Murray became a top candidate for National Player of the Year. 

As the hype around Murray came to surface, it quickly spread to the rest of the team. The Hawkeyes started off in the middle of the pack for most of the season but then caught fire at the end of the year. They went on to win 12 of their last 14 games before becoming the Big Ten Champions for the first time since 2006. 

Senior Hawkeye fan Ryan Groenenboom had lots of praise for the Hawkeyes’ successful run this season. “Everyone expected Iowa to be average this year, including myself with the loss of Garza, Weiskamp and a couple other good players,” he said. “But Keegan [Murray] really stepped up and surprised a lot of people and led us to a Big Ten championship.” The historic season of Iowa men’s basketball came to a shocking end as they were upset by number 12 seed Richmond in the NCAA Tournament. 

Aside from the attention directed towards the men’s team, the Iowa women’s team also put the nation on notice. Similar to the men’s, the women’s team did not have huge expectations to start off the season. Expectations of mediocrity were shattered as standout player Caitlin Clark arose as a dominating force in collegiate basketball.

Clark played high school basketball at Dowling Catholic where she became one of the top recruits across the nation. She led the nation in scoring her first two years at Iowa with 26.6 points per game and then 27 points the next season. To add on to her record-breaking year, Clark also led the nation in rebounds per game, averaging eight and making first team All-American team. 

Clark put the Hawkeyes on her back as she led them to a Big Ten Championship for the second time in four years. Starting off unranked, the Hawkeyes entered the NCAA Tournament as the second seed in their region. 

The Iowa women’s basketball team was a top choice for many brackets to make it to the elite eight, but their run was stopped short as they were upset by the red hot Creighton team. The Hawkeyes’ hopes of making a deep run in the tournament may have come to an end this year, but their future is bright as the nation’s back-to-back leading scorer will be returning to Iowa next year. 

The great success in basketball this season was seen across the state as the men’s and women’s Iowa and Iowa State teams gained a lot of attention.

The Iowa State men’s basketball team has made quite the comeback this year considering the team only won two games in the entirety of last season. This renewed success could be attributed to the hiring of new head coach, TJ Otzelberger. In just his first season as head coach at Iowa State, Otzelberger was selected as a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award.

Lifetime Iowa State basketball fan Jillian Keppy believes new head coach Otzelberger was the key to the team’s success this year. “After Otzelberger committed, two guys recommitted and three guys transferred,” Keppy said. “Not only was the new and returning starting lineup huge for the team, but Otzelberger’s tenacity and the new defense that he brought was what really gave them a chance this year.”

Iowa State’s men’s basketball team went 22-12 this season; they even pulled off two wins in the NCAA tournament, punching their ticket to the sweet 16, where they have not made an appearance since 2016. Despite their 11th seed ranking, the Cyclones managed to pull off two upsets in the NCAA tournament. This had Cyclone fans ecstatic, considering the lack of excitement last season. Although their season came to an end after losing to Miami in the sweet 16, the Cyclones still have a fantastic season to reflect upon.

Keppy expressed her excitement for Iowa State basketball and said, “For the men’s team to go from 2-22 overall and 0-18 in the big 12 and not even making it to the tournament, to getting to the sweet 16 this year, is remarkable and a jump never seen in college basketball history,” Keppy stated. “This success has been so much fun to watch, and being one of the 3 schools to have their women’s and men’s teams in the sweet 16 has definitely made me more excited to follow them.”

The Iowa State women’s team has also had their fair share of achievements this season, pulling in massive crowds to Hilton Coliseum. Going 28-6 in a season is certainly something to be proud of. Not only were the Cyclones able to achieve this impressive record, but along with the men’s team, they also made it to the sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. 

This would not have been possible without guard Ashley Joens, a key component to the team’s success. She recently broke an Iowa State record and became their number one all-time leading scorer. Joens was even selected as a second team All-American athlete for her incredible season. The state of Iowa as a whole has much to be proud of as it has three of the 30 total men’s and women’s basketball All-American athletes. 

The recent success of both the Iowa and Iowa State basketball programs have received a lot of attraction from the recent basketball season. With star players in both programs and the successful tournament runs, the two schools have managed to once again put Iowa back on the map for a state with major basketball talent. Whether a Hawkeye fan or Cyclone fan, there is no question about the growth and success the Iowa and Iowa State basketball teams have endured this year.