When WNBA great Sue Bird visited their practice this weekend, Iowa's players stared in astonishment. They grew up watching Bird star at UConn, Seattle and for Team USA.
Now a broadcaster, Bird is a crossover star — not to be confused with Iowa's best player, a star with a crossover.
Caitlin Clark watched the WNBA growing up, and she identified with Elena Delle Donne. Now the Hawkeyes star is playing a lot like Bird's best friend, Diana Taurasi, another player unafraid to shoot from 25 feet or engage in a game-long dialogue with the nearest ref.
Clark might be the best player and story in all of college basketball right now, and it's a story any Midwesterner should appreciate.
She grew up in Des Moines and played for Dowling Catholic, where Lynx general manager Clare Duwelius also starred.
Never particularly fast or smooth, Clark developed remarkable shooting range and used her height to see over defenses so she could deliver one-hand bullet passes to the post.
Good enough to elicit offers from around the country, she decided to stay home and play for Iowa.
On Sunday, Clark delivered the first 40-point triple-double in the history of March Madness, lifting Iowa to a 97-83 victory over Louisville. Her 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds lifted Iowa to its first Final Four since 1993.
As could have been said of her performance at the Big Ten tourney at Target Center, when you get a chance to see Clark play, live or on a screen, you shouldn't miss it.
Men's March Madness is the basketball tournament you watch because you filled out a bracket, and have 100 bucks or a breakfast bagel riding on the outcome.
If it weren't for the bracket and the betting, today you'd have to admit that you could not care less about Florida Atlantic, UConn, Miami or San Diego State.
The men's Final Four will include a fourth seed, two fifth seeds and a ninth seed, and will begin with two games that couldn't have filled a neutral site arena if played at midseason.
These teams made it this far because they are well-coached and cohesive, and because there are no longer great teams in men's college basketball.
If you want to rank the quality of play and intrigue surrounding America's prominent basketball offerings, men's basketball would now belong in fourth place, behind — in whatever order you like — the NBA, the WNBA and women's college basketball.
If you chose wisely this weekend, you watched the Minnesota Timberwolves win a thrilling game in San Francisco against the Golden State Warriors championship players, and a kid from Des Moines dominate a regional.
Clark's dominance this season may be upending some future WNBA draft boards.
She's eligible for the 2024 draft, meaning she has at least one more season at Iowa. She's talked about petitioning for an extra season, under the NCAA's new COVID eligibility guidelines.
If she enters the 2024 draft, she could be in the same draft class as Hopkins and UConn great Paige Bueckers.
Conventional wisdom and some WNBA experts have always listed Bueckers ahead of Clark because of Bueckers' lifelong dominance, ball handling, clutch shooting and ability to run a team.
Clark may be creating an important debate about future WNBA point guards.
She's taller — 6-foot — and has added muscle in the last year. Bueckers is listed at a lean 5-11. Clark plays bigger than her listed height while Bueckers plays like a traditional point guard.
While Bueckers is an excellent shooter, she prefers to pass. Clark is an excellent passer and an outrageous shooter, in terms of range and confidence.
Both are excellent leaders, with Clark being much more demonstrative.
Both have taken a college program to the Final Four, but Clark did so with a more dominant display and a program that has never been confused with a powerhouse.
Bueckers has been plagued by injuries. Clark has not.
The Lynx have the second pick in this year's draft, and could choose versatile Maryland wing Diamond Miller.
If the Lynx draft high again in 2024, they could hope to wind up with Bueckers or Clark. The consolation prize would be quite consoling.