No. 5 Hawkeyes head to the Gulf Coast Classic in Estero, Fla. for three games in three days, starting Friday.
IOWA CITY — If all goes according to plan, Lisa Bluder’s victory odometer will roll over sometime around 8:30 p.m. (Iowa time) Saturday.
As that moment approaches, Bluder was asked about the impact of her impending 500th victory as University of Iowa women’s basketball coach.
She was not allowed to use the cliche phrases of “It means I’m getting old,” or “It means I’ve been here a long time.”
Bluder thought a moment, and proceeded:
“It will be special,” she said Tuesday. “I love this place. Iowa has been good for me, and I hope I have been good for Iowa.
“What is it that Winnie the Pooh said? ‘Today is my new favorite day?’ Well, this is my new favorite team.”
Her new favorite team, No. 5 Iowa (4-1) jets to Florida for a three-day, three-game run at the Gulf Coast Classic at Hertz Arena in Estero.
It starts Friday with a first-round test against Purdue Fort Wayne (2-1). Tipoff is 6:30 p.m. (Iowa time).
The second round is Saturday, the final round is Sunday. If the Hawkeyes keep winning, their tip times will remain at 6:30 in these parts.
Bluder is in her 24th season at Iowa, where she has fashioned a record of 498-250. In 40 years overall (including six at St. Ambrose and 10 at Drake), she is 854-392.
Her winning percentage at Iowa is .665. In the last six-plus seasons (the last two with Megan Gustafson and three-plus with Caitlin Clark), that has risen to .763 (155-48).
“She’s a great coach,” sophomore Hannah Stuelke said. “I’m happy I get to play for her. I’m been watching (the Hawkeyes) for so many years.”
“She’s the GOAT,” added Molly Davis. “To be part of something special like (her 500th Iowa win) … I couldn’t be happier.”
There’s a decent chance that the Hawkeyes will get an opportunity to avenge their Nov. 16 home loss to Kansas State.
The Wildcats (4-0), now ranked 16th, are on the other side of the bracket, and could be a championship-game foe Sunday. K-State is likely face No. 18 North Carolina in the semifinals.
“That would be pretty unusual,” Bluder said. “I don’t think we would mind that (rematch). I know it would have our players’ attention.”
But there is plenty to chew upon before Sunday.
The Hawkeyes will be heavily favored against the Mastadons of Purdue Fort Wayne, but the challenge would grow against likely semifinal opponent Florida Gulf Coast on Friday.
“That’s a really strong mid-major that always seems to be in the NCAA tournament,” Bluder said.