IOWA CITY -- They are in. And they are hosting.
The only mystery surrounding the Iowa Hawkeyes as the NCAA women's basketball tournament selection approaches is numerical.
Five seed? Six? Seven?
"I think that's definitely what we deserve," Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said. "I think that's what we've earned."
No. 25 Iowa (26-8) is a cinch to qualify for its seventh straight NCAA when the selections are announced Monday (6 p.m., ESPN). In what originally figured to be a rebuilding year, this may in fact be the Hawkeyes' best opportunity to survive the first two rounds and advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1996.
They're at home for the first two rounds. And they're more than likely to avoid that dreaded 8-9 line that spells doom for the game's non-elite.
"Every opportunity is tremendous, but, yeah, I think we have a better chance than some years," Bluder said.
Iowa will serve as one of 16 first- and second-round hosts for the second straight year. The Hawkeyes reached the second round last year, beating Miami (Fla.), then bowing to Notre Dame.
The Hawkeyes' ranking and RPI (23) would seem to lend itself to a No. 6 seed, and that's where ESPN's Charlie Creme has them located in his latest "Bracketology" at espn.com.
The NCAA committee is allowed to perform a "procedural bump" on teams -- up or down one seed, in order to make all the pieces fit in the puzzle. So that means Iowa could be as high as a 5, as low as a 7.
Creme said, "(Iowa's NCAA) seed is tricky because of (its) likely seed (5, 6 or 7) and (its) position as a host school."
If the Hawkeyes are a 6, they will face a No. 11 seed in Round 1, and the winner will meet the 3-vs.-14 victor in the second round.
With the departure of Jaime Printy and Morgan Johnson, this figured to be somewhat of a rebuilding season for the Hawkeyes. Instead, they compiled 26 victories -- only four Iowa teams have won more, and all four of those advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA.
"I don't go into a season speculating on how many games we'll win ... but 26? No, I absolutely wouldn't have guessed that," Bluder said.
"This has been a balanced, talented group. Theairra Taylor has elevated her game. Sam (Logic) has gotten a lot better. Bethany (Doolittle) improved immensely. Ally (Disterhoft) was an unknown, but really stepped up.
"Everybody has really elevated their game significantly."
Iowa tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 11-5, then advanced to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament before falling to Nebraska. The Hawkeyes do have some eye-catching wins -- most notably, at Penn State. There are no crippling losses on the resume; only the one at Colorado came to a team outside the current RPI top 100.
Big Ten: 11-5 (Tie-4th), tournament runner-up (to Nebraska)
Strength of schedule: 47
Record vs. top 50: 10-6
Last 10: 8-2
Key wins: Dayton, Syracuse, at Penn State, Purdue (Big Ten tournament quarterfinal)Bad losses: at Colorado, at Indiana