116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Caitlin Clark won't be hitting the snooze button Sunday morning.
'When I'm up, I'm up,' she said. 'Honestly, I probably won't sleep much.
'We're the first game of the tournament. We're on ESPN. How can you not be excited about that?'
Clark, and three other Iowa starters, will make their NCAA women's basketball tournament debut Sunday, when the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes (18-9) face 12-seed Central Michigan (18-8).
Tipoff is 11 a.m. at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. And, as Clark correctly stated, the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
'Obviously, we're extremely thrilled to be here,' Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. 'I'm glad we have an early game.'
'We arrived late Wednesday, and usually when you fly in, you play the next day. Everybody just wants to play, and I'm glad we get to do it right away. We want to be here a long time.'
In the women's NCAA, the top 16 teams traditionally earn home-court advantage for the first two rounds. Iowa took advantage of that on the way to an Elite Eight run in 2019.
This year, due to COVID-19, it's all neutral courts, all in and around San Antonio.
Bluder likes that, too.
'I think it's a real step forward for the women's game,' she said. 'Nobody should get to host.'
In Central Michigan, the Hawkeyes will be facing a perimeter-slanted squad led by guards Micaela Kelly and Molly Davis, who combine for 44.8 points per game. The Chippewas take 46 percent of their shots from behind the 3-point arc.
'Three-point defense is going to be key to the game,' Clark said. 'We've got to get out and get our hands up. Communication is key.'
At 26.7 points per game, Clark is the nation's leading scorer as a freshman. But the Hawkeyes' key Sunday probably is junior post Monika Czinano (19.5 ppg), who leads the land in field-goal percentage, at .678.
'Getting the ball inside, that's a huge key,' McKenna Warnock said.
Bluder said, 'Monika's a walking bucket.'
The pre-tournament national chatter has focused on the inferior weight-room facilities for the women, compared to the men's tournament.
'I'm proud of the women athletes I've seen that have been willing to step forward to talk about it,' Czinano said. 'I do think it's a here-we-go-again situation, and the more recognition it gets, the nation will know, it's not OK.'
Bluder said, 'I can't imagine how hard it is to navigate through a tournament like this. (The NCAA) needs to look out for all teams. A lot of women are using their voices as female leaders, and that's what we want.'
Sunday's winner advances to face No. 18 Kentucky (17-8) or Idaho State (22-3) in the second round Tuesday.
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