The decision wasn't difficult.

Last spring, in rather shocking fashion in Iowa City, the season came to an end for the No. 2-seeded Iowa women's basketball team after a 64-62 upset loss to Creighton in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

As a senior, Monika Czinano had averaged 21.2 points with 6.2 rebounds. Her 67.9 shooting percentage led the nation. She was the All-Big Ten center and a member of the conference's all-tournament team.

Shortly after the season ended, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder asked Czinano, who had an extra year of eligibility available because of the COVID-19 pandemic, if she wanted to return. She gave the former Watertown-Mayer star a week to decide.

It took three days.

"It was something I wasn't willing to give up,'' Czinano said at Big Ten media days. "It's such a family here. I love playing basketball at this level. Playing with these guys, for Coach Bluder, it was pretty easy to come back.''

With all five starters back from last year's team, including star Caitlin Clark, with a chip deposited on their shoulders because of last year's tournament loss on its home court, Iowa is one of the teams mentioned when it comes to Final Four potential.

And that puts Czinano atop the list of Minnesotans in Division I women's basketball worth watching this season.

Minnesota has become a big-time talent generator, of course. This year's list would have been deeper had guard Paige Bueckers (Connecticut) and center Ayoka Lee (Kansas State) not been lost for the season with knee injuries. Nebraska's Sam Haiby would have been high up as well, if not for a knee injury of her own.

For Czinano, the prospect of a tournament run was alluring. "We have that sour taste in our mouths from last year,'' she said. "I mean, we're moving on [from it]. But it's good to look back on that to motivate us so we don't ever have to feel that feeling again.''

The Gophers have several players to watch, with a ninth-ranked recruiting class that included Mara Braun, Nia Holloway, Amaya Battle and Mallory Heyer, along with redshirt freshman Katie Borowicz. Holloway was lost to a knee injury, too.

Looking around the nation, it wasn't difficult to find Minnesotans to watch with the season about to get underway.