Iowa senior Megan Gustafson scored 45 points against the marquee program in the Big Ten to win a conference title. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
As Iowa and Iowa State continue looking like strong NCAA Tournament hosts, it's easy to point to who fuels each team's success. The Hawkeyes and Cyclones don't go anywhere without Megan Gustafson or Bridget Carleton.
They were again recognized for their dominance Thursday. ESPN named both all-Americans, putting Gustafson on the first team and Carleton on the second team.
Joining Gustafson were Connecticut's Napheesa Collier, Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan, Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu and Louisville's Asia Durr. Alongside Carleton were Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale, Baylor's Kalani Brown, Stanford's Alanna Smith and Cal's Kristine Anigwe.
Iowa supporters have clamored that Gustafson be deservedly recognized among the sport's elite. First-team all-American status does just that.
Gustafson leads the nation in scoring (28 points per game) and field-goal percentage (69.6 percent) while ranking fourth in rebounding (13.3). After pouring in 45 points to lead Iowa to a Big Ten Tournament title, Gustafson will get another chance to shine on the biggest stage.
Postseason expectations are high for the Hawkeyes, which should land a No. 2 seed during Monday's selection show. Gustafson is the biggest reason why Iowa is in position to have its best season under coach Lisa Bluder.
Carleton, meanwhile, is the first Cyclone to win Big 12 player of the year honors, after leading the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. She's helped Iowa State rebound from last year's NCAA Tournament absence.
Despite falling in the conference tournament title game, the Cyclones should still be a top-four seed.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.