While the NCAA men’s tournament has been kinda meh, the Women’s side has been far more interesting. Today the Mizzou women have a chance to severely increase the excitement level for Tigers fans by getting to the Sweet 16 for the first time under Robin Pingeton.
They face Iowa, who is undefeated at home this year, and are coached by the women who coached Pingeton in college at St. Ambrose. Lisa Bluder recruited and hired Pingeton as a coach at St. Ambrose, so they’re familiar with each other a little bit.
Watch: #Mizzou women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton will face her former coach, Lisa Bluder, for just the second time ever this afternoon. Pingeton played for Bluder at St. Ambrose University - she's the all-time leading scorer there.— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) March 24, 2019
Story: https://t.co/mGICr75TDI pic.twitter.com/SQie3Aaixn
Missouri has their work cut out for them as the Hawkeyes are led by Megan Gustafson, the ESPNW player of the year, who averages 28.1 points and 13.3 rebounds per contest helping the Hawekeys score nearly 80 points a game. The 6’3 post player scored 45 points in the B1G championship game on 17-24 shooting. So the Hawkeyes are not afraid to get her a LOT of shots.
If there’s good news the Hawkeyes don’t normally force a lot of turnovers, which is the Tigers achilles heel. If they can find a way to limit Gustafson a little bit, hit some outside shots, and value the ball Mizzou will have a chance at the upset.
And just like that the Sophie Cunningham era of Mizzou women’s basketball is over. The Tigers couldn’t get anything going offensively once Sophie picked up her 2nd foul in the 2nd quarter, as they watched a 7 point lead melt away to a 4 point deficit at halftime. From there the Hawkeyes slowly squeezed the life out of the Tigers as three pointer after three pointer caromed off the rim, and the lead grew to 20 before settling on the final margin.
On one hand, Cunningham and Pingeton have helped to elevate the program’s expectations which is a good things, and Pingeton will look to carry that on without Sophie. The bad however is this is the fourth straight year where the Tigers have failed to advance out of the first weekend after making the tournament. In 2016 they lost in the second round to a 2 seed (Texas) as the 10 seed, in 2017 they lost in the second round to a 3 seed (Florida State) as the 6 seed, and last year they lost in the first round to a 12 seed as the five seed.
So while only one of those losses came at the hands of a lower seeded team, it was still an 0-4 when attempting to get out of the first weekend, disappointing for sure.
As one who fully believes March is a crapshoot, women’s basketball is also very different. The teams at the top are at the top for a reason, and the difference between the teams at the top and those in the middle is still very wide. All that means for Pingeton is there’s still work to be done.