Occasionally Iowa star guard Caitlin Clark will get a text from her older brother, Blake.

Every time, the same thing. A picture of Creighton players celebrating under the scoreboard at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City last spring after a second-round NCAA game.

That scoreboard reads: Creighton 64, Iowa 62.

"He still does that,'' Clark said Tuesday at Target Center. "And I'm sure he still will.''

Clark and Iowa teammates Monika Czinano and Kate Martin were at Big Ten basketball media days. They comprise three of the five returning starters from an Iowa team that shared the 2022 conference regular-season title, became the first Iowa team to win both that and the Big Ten tournament, earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. ...

… And then saw that run end in the second round by 10th-seeded Creighton.

This, folks, is motivation.

It is in large part what motivated Czinano to return for a fifth season made possible by COVID-19 pandemic; she was given a week by coach Lisa Bluder to decide after last season ended. But it took only three days.

It is why the consensus among conference opponents is that Iowa is clearly the team to beat in a top-heavy Big Ten.

"It's still motivating us,'' Clark said. "We get it in practice a fair amount. … We have that sour taste in our mouths. We're moving on from last year, but it's good to look back on that to motivate us. We don't ever want to have that feeling again.''

On a seriously talented Iowa team that has gone, in one year, from hunter to hunted, Clark is the focal point. She was last season's Big Ten Player of the Year and is expected to repeat. As a sophomore she became the first player to lead Division I women's basketball in both scoring (27.0) and assists (8.0) in the same season.

With UConn's Paige Bueckers out following knee surgery, Clark is the best-known college player this side of South Carolina post Aliyah Boston. Because Clark is a high-scoring guard whose range reaches just inside the half-court line, Yahoo called her the most entertaining player in college basketball.

'A game changer'

On the court Clark has impressed; off of it she has scored. Big. Taking full advantage of the building name, image and likeness (NIL) craze. Already having done deals with Hy-Vee supermarkets and Topps trading cards, Clark this week signed an NIL deal with Nike, joining a group of athletes, many of whom she idolized growing up.

Just more reason to think of Clark as the face, not only of the Big Ten, but of women's basketball this season.

"As a conference, we're extremely lucky to have Caitlin in our league, with the national attention she gets and what it does to elevate our game and our brands,'' Purdue coach Katie Gearlds said. "[I] hate playing against her. ... But what she does? She puts eyes on all of us.''

Said Maryland coach Brenda Frese: "She's made such a difference. Obviously at Iowa, in the country. She's a game-changer.''

But Clark and her Iowa teammates are more consumed with winning, about reaching the 2023 Final Four in Dallas, than anything else.

"When I step on the court, it's just what I love to do,'' she said. "I've been doing it since I was a little kid. I love being competitive. I think as my career has evolved, people have been really drawn to our team. It's not only me, it's the whole team, the style of basketball we play, the way we cheer for one another.''

Clark said the Hawkeyes have the kind of team that "can inspire younger girls. But even boys will come and love us. That's the best thing you can do."

A promise to fulfill

Entering her junior year, Clark continues to refine her game. She has put time in working low, where, at 6-foot, she should be able to post up smaller opponents while opening up more good shots for teammates. She has worked to cut down on her turnovers.

Iowa seems poised for something big, perhaps the second Final Four in program history. Clark and Czinano, a Minnesota native who starred at Watertown-Mayer, were both all-conference last year. Incoming players have provided more depth.

"I always felt if you have a really good point guard and a really good center that you have the opportunity to have a really good year,'' Bluder said.

The mantra of the team is the famous Billie Jean King quote: "Pressure is a privilege.''

"I met [King] one time,'' Bluder said. "She wrote it on a piece of paper. Signed it. It's in our locker room.''

Halfway through her college career, Clark welcomes that pressure.

"Since I committed to the University of Iowa, I've been saying I want to take this team to the Final Four,'' she said. "I've been saying that since Day One. People kinda laughed, didn't believe in it. But people in our locker room believe that, people around the country believe we can do that. It takes hard work. Things have to go your way, you have to have a little luck. But that's where we want to be.''