Predictions: Will women’s basketball meet the all-time high expectations?


Jacob Rice

Lexi Donarski talks to Iowa State Head Coach Bill Fennelly during the Cyclones’ 78-71 win over UT Arlington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18 in Hilton Coliseum.

Christian Royston and Payne Blazevich

The Iowa State women’s basketball season is quickly approaching, and the team is working hard to make last minute improvements. Coming off a historic Sweet 16 run, expectations are high for the Cyclones. They are entering the year ranked No. 8 in the nation, topping the Big 12 Preseason Poll.

Read what women’s basketball reporters Christian Royston and Payne Blazevich predict for the upcoming season.

Record predictions

Christian Royston: 23-6

The Cyclones are coming off an incredible record-setting season, which saw them put up 28 wins en route to a Sweet 16 appearance. The team is also coming into the new season returning most of its players, including the big three in Ashley Joens, Lexi Donarski and Emily Ryan.

It’s going to be tough to live up to the immense preseason hype, but I think the Cyclones are going to be able to handle it. However, I do think they will drop a few more games during the regular season than last year.

Teams such as Baylor and Texas matched up well against Iowa State and should continue to be dominant forces in the Big 12. There should be a few teams gunning for the top spot in the conference, so wins won’t be easy to come by. All that said, I think finishing the regular season with over 20 wins is a safe bet.

Payne Blazevich: 25-4

Although they may not reach the 28-win total like last season, the Cyclones are poised to have another standout year. Returning Joens, Donarski and Ryan – who are all voted All-Big 12 in the preseason – should provide some continuity from the winningest team in program history. 

The expectations are immense yet Iowa State has the capability to fulfill them. But, it’s unreasonable to expect this team to reach or surpass its win total last season.

Games against Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor are all challenges this veteran team is equipped to overcome. While they may not hit 28 wins again, the Cyclones are capable of contending for the regular season Big 12 title. 

Potential big win

Christian Royston: Feb. 13 vs. Texas

Texas was a thorn in Iowa State’s side throughout all of last season. The Cyclones lost all three meetings with the Longhorns and were sent packing from the Big 12 tournament thanks to a stout Texas defense.

Texas has one of the playstyles that Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly wants to adapt to. If the Cyclones can match up well against the Longhorns, then a Big 12 Championship could be in reach.

Feb. 13 will be Iowa State’s home matchup against Texas, which should give an edge to the team. I predict the Hilton Magic will be in the air as the Cyclones take down one of the current top teams in the nation.

Payne Blazevich: Dec. 7 at Iowa

Both Iowa State (No. 8) and Iowa (No. 4) are ranked inside the top 10 headed into the start of the season. If both teams are undefeated by Dec. 7, there could be a top-five Cy-Hawk matchup in Iowa City. 

While Iowa State won last season 77-70, Iowa was the team that ended up receiving more national attention. Iowa guard Caitlin Clark became a superstar for the Hawkeyes, and her highlights traveled across the sports world. Clark was a player of the year contender and led Iowa to a Big Ten Championship. 

I would expect Iowa State to enter Carver-Hawkeye Arena with some intensity. The Cyclones will look to upset their in-state rival and cement themselves as the top women’s basketball team in the state. Although it has no impact on the Big 12 title race, I would be surprised if Dec. 7 isn’t circled on Iowa State’s calendar. 

Bold Prediction

Christian Royston

I’m predicting at least an Elite Eight run from the Cyclones in the NCAA Tournament. I want to believe that this isn’t an incredibly bold prediction given the talent and experience of the team, but anything can happen in March.

I genuinely think there are very few teams in the nation that can lock down the Cyclones, and the offseason additions and improvements will only make them harder to topple. With players working on improving their defense along with the already great shooting, the Cyclones should have a good shot at making a deep run.

Payne Blazevich

It will be a battle to overcome teams they couldn’t beat last season, but I think the Cyclones are capable of winning a regular season Big 12 title. 

Iowa State returns a handful of veterans, while adding some depth and physicality. The physicality part is perhaps most important, as Iowa State was out-muscled in its losses to Texas and Baylor last season.

The team has everything this season: great guard play, a strong front court, improving defense and high scoring potential. If they fire off all cylinders, the Cyclones can reach the top of the mountain in the Big 12. 

Under the radar player to watch

Christian Royston: Denae Fritz

I know Fritz isn’t the most under-the-radar player, but I’m still predicting a breakout year from her. She is coming off an injury that cut her season short just two starts in, but she already showed great sparks of talent in her limited appearances.

Fritz was expected to be a great player coming into college, as she turned heads in high school. Now in her second year with the team, Fritz should have the experience needed to succeed at the collegiate level.

Fennelly made it clear that Fritz was healthy and should be good to go when the season rolls around. With other big names getting looks from elite Big 12 defenders, Fritz should get plenty of opportunities to shine in the upcoming season.

Payne Blazevich: Stephanie Soares

While Soares drew a lot of attention with her signing in April, I think the value of her addition is still being underrated. She may be the difference between fulfilling preseason expectations versus falling short.

Her height is something the Cyclones haven’t been able to take advantage of for a while. The six-foot-six center was a force at The Master’s University, an NAIA program. 

Soares was voted the NAIA player of the year twice, as well as earning a spot on the NAIA All-American team three times. She provides scoring potential down low, and she is another defensive threat for the Cyclones. 

If Iowa State is able to live up to expectations, look to Soares as the impetus for this season’s success.