Blake’s Take: Caitlin Clark gives Hawkeyes chance at blue-blood territory

Blake’s Take: Caitlin Clark gives Hawkeyes chance at blue-blood territory

Let’s go back in time. Not to the Final Four or Elite Eight, but the Hawkeyes’ supercharged regular-season finale against Ohio State. I called it the greatest day ever at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Fans packed the arena four hours before tipoff. Many had signs with the mileage it took to get them there, many flying from all across America to watch this team’s final home game.

A super charged atmosphere, a marquee matchup and a generational talent. What am I missing? Fans got their money’s worth, the 2023-24 Hawkeyes won a big game, and the future of Lisa Bluder’s program came out victors, too.

As I was pinned to the wall adjacent to Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s tunnel, attempting to get one of the final looks at a Caitlin Clark autograph throng, I noticed another category of the audience: The recruits in attendance.

“They got a front row to seat to this?” I said to the person standing next to me.

The Hawkeyes will bring in a premiere freshman class this fall, and have already landed a pair of top 50 recruits in 2025: Journey Houston and Addie Deal. They will likely not be the last of the high-rated prospects to pick Iowa.

The future will no doubt be bright, but this team isn’t going anywhere next season, either. With the addition of the portal’s top transfer, Villanova’s Lucy Olsen, they’ll go from one star point guard to another.

There will never be another Caitlin Clark. That’s the point of dubbing a player a generational talent, right? But the effect Clark has had on the past, present and potentially future of Iowa women’s basketball is amazing as well.

Lisa Bluder and her staff have proven they can develop and accentuate talent. They’ve turned into a post-factory and have a farm of guards waiting in the wings to play on the same stage No. 22 did.

Dawn Staley turned over a starting five and won every game on her schedule the following year. Connecticut has seen Naismith winners come in and out the door, yet they’re always in the hunt in the Final Four.

Why can’t Iowa be the same? Olsen was the third leading scorer in the nation and she’s a preseason contender for player of the year. When she leaves, the writing is on the wall for another top recruit to take her place.

It’s not a formality — rather a thought. The Hawkeyes may have just lived their glory days right in front of our very eyes, and they could revert back to the pre-Clark era. (Don’t forget that included an Elite Eight in 2019.)

But there is a chance that one great player permanently elevates the expectations of the team. With fan support as great as it’s ever been, there will be NIL money to spend and top high school players dreaming of playing for the black and gold.

Things may never be the same, and that’s not a bad thing.

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