After Seattle 4 Region carnage, it’s now Final Four or bust for the Iowa Hawkeyes

This isn’t a slight to anyone that’s left in the Seattle 4 Region. There’s three teams remaining that are all fully capable of sending the Hawkeyes packing for home ahead of schedule. It’s simply the reality of the situation now for Iowa.

With No. 1 seed Stanford, No. 3 seed Duke and No. 4 seed Texas all tumbling out of this 2023 NCAA Tournament as upset victims, it’s officially Final Four or bust for the Hawkeyes (28-6, 15-3 Big Ten).

Maybe that was already the case for Iowa for the most part, but now that the Seattle 4 Region carnage has taken place, there’s no longer any debate. It’s imperative that the Hawkeyes capitalize with the program’s second all-time Final Four berth.

Iowa is the highest-seeded team remaining in the Seattle 4 Region by three seed lines and the Hawkeyes won’t have to beat any team seeded higher than No. 5 seed Louisville en route to Dallas.

The Hawkeyes have the likely Naismith Trophy winner on its roster in superstar Caitlin Clark playing alongside a fellow Associated Press honorable mention selection in standout big Monika Czinano. Czinano decided to return to Iowa City for a fifth season for the opportunity at a tournament run just like this one.

The Law Firm duo averages a combined 44.3 points and 13.9 rebounds per game. It’s tough to find any one-two punch in this tournament that’s better than those two.

Like last season, Clark is leading the nation in assists per game with 8.6 per night. She just dished out 12 helpers to secure her 16th double-double of the season in Iowa’s 74-66 win over Georgia.

After last season’s Round of 32 stumble against 10th-seeded Creighton, that Georgia victory felt like perhaps the mental hurdle that Iowa needed to clear in order to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1993.

When the bracket was unveiled and Iowa was slighted to a degree with a No. 2 seed instead of the tournament field’s final No. 1 in favor of the Cardinal, it seemed like Iowa and Stanford were on a collision course in the Elite Eight. Scrap that idea.

Ole Miss had other plans. The Rebels bounced Stanford, ending the Cardinal’s stretch of 14 consecutive Sweet 16 trips with a shocking 54-49 win on Sunday night. Stanford had also made back-to-back Final Four trips and won the 2021 national championship over Arizona, 54-53.

That result alone ramped up the pressure and expectations meter for the Hawkeyes. But, then sixth-seeded Colorado and fifth-seeded Louisville decided to play spoiler.

Louisville routed No. 4 seed Texas, 73-51, behind guard Hailey Van Lith’s 21 points. Sure, Van Lith in the handshake line should be a message to everyone left in the bracket that Louisville isn’t here to play nice, but that’s still another host seed gone by the wayside in Texas.

Then, Colorado decided a battle with third-seeded Duke was overrated for Iowa. The Buffs sent Kara Lawson’s Duke squad home in overtime, 61-53, pulling the stunner behind Quay Miller’s 17 and Jaylyn Sherrod’s 14.

That means Colorado is up first in the Sweet 16 at 6:30 p.m. CT on Friday from Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Wash. Then, it’s either Louisville or Ole Miss if Iowa can take care of its business against the Buffs.

Again, all three are capable of continuing the surprises and ending Iowa’s season, especially Louisville behind star guard Van Lith. But, the pathway to Dallas has gotten easier for Iowa and it’s time to take advantage of that fact.

That’s the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. There’s no guarantee that things will go according to seeding or plan. Still, it does feel like a bit of a gift for Iowa that Stanford won’t be there in Seattle.

After all, the Cardinal became the first No. 1 seed since 2009 to fail to reach the Sweet 16 in the women’s tournament. Never mind the fact that Indiana shortly thereafter joined that same distinction.

With the firepower that Iowa has in its top duo and the production it’s been getting from its complementary starters and pieces, the roster and bracket is right for Iowa to dance its way back to the Final Four 30 years later.

Here’s a look back at some of the key moments in the Seattle 4 Region bracket so far, including a look at how each of the other top seeds went tumbling out.

One last time for the nation's best fans


Not done yet!

Stanford stunner starts it


Bye bye, Texas

Interesting moment in the handshake line

Colorado completes the trifecta

How SWEET it is

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire