Coach C. Vivian Stringer has beaten her former team twice since taking over at Rutgers, but in an inconsistent season for the Scarlet Knights, defeating Iowa again might be a challenge.
Stringer and ninth-seeded Rutgers take on the eighth-seeded Hawkeyes in first-round action in the Sacramento Regional on Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights (19-14) are making their eighth straight NCAA tournament appearance and 12th under Stringer. In 2009, they advanced to the round of 16 before losing 67-61 to Purdue.
Rutgers returned two starters from that team, including guard Brittany Ray, who leads the team with 14.2 points per game. With three underclassmen in the lineup, however, the Scarlet Knights struggled midway through the Big East schedule, losing six of nine Jan. 26-Feb. 24.
They won four of five to end the season, falling 56-49 to then-No. 9 West Virginia in the conference tournament semifinals. Although Rutgers enters with its lowest seeding since Stringer took over, its coach still believes the team is poised for a deep run in the NCAAs.
"I know now enough to know that you shouldn't ever count the Scarlet Knights out," Stringer said. "You don't know what we're going to do. We are as unpredictable as anybody."
Rutgers has faced Iowa twice since Stringer left the Hawkeyes in 1995, winning 70-53 in the last meeting Dec. 16, 2006.
"They have a real flair for the drama, don't they?" Stringer said of the selection committee's pairing. "There is a great story line and it should be interesting one way or the other. ... I don't know anything about (Iowa) other than probably of all the schools I would want to play, that's not the one because nothing good can come of it in my heart."
Ray, a senior, will be trying to get Rutgers to the Final Four for the first time since 2007. She struggled late, getting held to fewer than 10 points in four of her last six games while scoring a combined eight in the final two.
While the Scarlet Knights have only one player averaging in double figures, Iowa (19-13) has three scoring more than 14.0 points per game. However, the Hawkeyes may have a difficult time against a Rutgers team that is 23rd in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 55.8 points per game.
Iowa won 11 of its final 14, losing 66-64 to then-No. 10 Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament title game.
"We all have confidence in each other when it comes to handling the basketball," said sophomore point guard Kamille Wahlin, averaging 14.5 points. "Whether it's Jaime (Printy) or Kash (Kachine Alexander), we know we can get our offense working."
Alexander, who missed seven games with a stress fracture in her leg early in the season, averages team highs of 15.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals. The Hawkeyes went 3-4 without her in the lineup.
Iowa, making its third straight NCAA tournament appearance, lost 76-62 to Georgia Tech in the first round last season.
The winner of this game faces top-seeded Stanford or UC Riverside on Monday.