March 28, 2024 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: Caitlin Clark’s Iowa goodbye; West Virginia and Princeton’s excellence

Carver-Hawkeye waves goodbye, West Virginia finds its stride, two-bid Ivy and more!

On today’s episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball, managing editor and Ivy League beat reporter for The Next Jenn Hatfield joined host Howard Megdal to discuss the first two rounds of NCAA Tournament action in Iowa City. Hatfield was live at Carver-Hawkeye Arena as Caitlin Clark played her final game at home in Iowa.

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First, the two discussed the atmosphere of the event and the experience of seeing Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes in person at their home arena.

“It was really powerful,” Hatfield said. “For me, it was my first time in Carver-Hawkeye. I’ve seen Caitlin Clark play live a couple times, including last year’s Final Four, but I hadn’t seen her in her home arena and seen how those fans reacted to her. You always hear about how great Carver-Hawkeye is, how devoted the Iowa fans are. But seeing it and hearing it and feeling it are very different. It really struck me.

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“To get from the media room down to my seat, I had to walk around the top of the concourse and then down to my seat, and just walking down into the arena toward the court level, seeing the fans — this is well before tip off still, but they’re there, they’re excited. Just kind of seeing that gave me some goosebumps. … It was a little emotional for me seeing how much these people care about women’s sports because, as you know all too well, that’s not the case everywhere.”

Then, they focused on the first-round game between West Virginia and Princeton. In particular, they discussed how West Virginia head coach Mark Kellogg is bringing stability and direction to a program that has gone through three head coaches in as many years.

“[Kellogg] seems like a good fit all around. … He seems to be really building something,” Hatfield said. “It helps that he kind of pushed together the styles of [Mike Carey] and [Dawn Plitzuweit], so the returning players had something to build on. It’s not like he brought in the completely polar opposite system that they had to learn. So he kind of tried to try to build on what had been as much as he could, and it happened to match his own style. … Now it’s a matter of getting recruiting going and tapping the transfer portal and all those things that coaches have to do to generate momentum after Year 1.”

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They also discussed the Ivy League’s representation in the tournament, with both Princeton and Columbia making appearances in the first round and in a play-in game, respectively. Hatfield, who covers the league, spoke about how gratifying it has been to see the league’s growth.

“Nationally, the Ivy League kind of boiled down to Princeton; that was what people knew about the league and with good reason. Princeton has been elite for a long time now,” Hatfield said. “But seeing the greater recognition of Columbia, and especially their star guard Abbey Hsu, seeing the recognition of how well the Ivy League grad transfers are playing at USC, which is a No. 1 seed, all those things have really, I think, helped raise the profile of the league and the league as a whole and not just Princeton, while also Princeton [is] continuing to excel. It helps make it clear this is a trend, this is not a flash in the pan of grad transfers. This is a league that people need to pay more attention to.”

Tune in to hear more about Hatfield’s time in Iowa City, Ivy League basketball and more. Make sure to subscribe to the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to keep learning about the WNBA, women’s college basketball and basketball history.

Written by The Next

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