The Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis had it all: Suspense, anticipation, surprises, and greatness.
Much of the focus of the tournament was on the then-No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes, who had won a share of the Big Ten regular season title by defeating Michigan 104-80 on Feb. 28. They split the crown with the Ohio State Buckeyes, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and Iowa at No. 2.
The Hawkeyes have generated buzz throughout the season due to their dynamic and high-scoring offense led by head coach Lisa Bluder and their sophomore phenom and Naismith Player of the Year nominee Caitlin Clark.
Iowa came into the tournament on a four-game winning streak and never lost that momentum. The Hawkeyes defeated Northwestern 72-59 and Nebraska 83-66 to reach the final against then-No. 11 Indiana. The Hoosiers had defeated Rutgers 66-54, Maryland 62-51, and Ohio State 70-62 to meet Iowa.
Both teams played a competitive game throughout, but it was the Hawkeyes that capped it off in the fourth quarter to win the Big Ten tournament championship.
Propelled by Monika Czinano’s 30 points and 10 rebounds plus Clark’s 18 points, the Hawkeyes captured their seventh consecutive victory and their third straight win over the Hoosiers. It is the team’s fourth Big Ten tournament title and the first time Iowa has won both the regular season and tournament championship in the same year.
After a topsy turvy season consumed by COVID cancellations, a crowded conference that was up for grabs, and late season injuries to starters Gabby Marshall and McKenna Warnock, the Hawkeyes have proved so many doubters wrong and officially place themselves into national contenders.
This title has also catapulted Iowa in the national rankings with Selection Sunday looming, as the team is now ranked eighth in the country behind South Carolina, Stanford, NC State, Baylor, Louisville, Connecticut, and Texas. LSU and Iowa State round out the top ten.
The Hawkeyes’ victory also secures Iowa City has a host for the first and second rounds of the tournament March 18-21.