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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Lisa Bluder has coached for 40 years. This is her 22nd NCAA Tournament. Iowa's coach knows a slight when she hears one. 

In the hug-it-out prelude to top-seeded Iowa's final home game, in the loving embrace of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a conflict has emerged. It starts with comments by West Virginia coach Mark Kellogg from Selection Sunday that have circulated on social media.

In addressing supporters at the Mountaineers' Selection Sunday watch party , Kellogg (now) infamously said, "Let's send Caitlin Clark packing."

Well, look who the Mountaineers are playing in the second round of the tournament Monday night. Speaking out against Clark right now is like speaking out against sunsets. It doesn't make sense in either case; eventually, both are going to rise again. 

Kellogg and the Mountaineers are trying to achieve something of a first this season. Clark has never really been so much as slowed thus far as the reigning national player of the year. But Iowa's first-round game over Holy Cross on Saturday did reveal more of Clark's acting out on the court. After being elbowed in the face by an opposing player, she complained to officials to the point where her father was caught on television admonishing his daughter, "Stop." 

An intentional foul was called, but that's not the point. A dad caught on camera weighing in live as though he and his daughter were still back in their West Des Moines driveway is one thing. An opposing coach standing at the lectern addressing the team and talking smack about a single player in a possible second-round game is another for Iowa coach Lisa Bluder.

"He tried to backtrack on it, I know, a lot. But the team all saw it," Bluder said of Kellogg's comment. "They can do with it what they want."

And you'd better believe the issue has been discussed in the Iowa locker room. The coach wasn't hiding her agitation.

"I'm not going to isolate one player [if I speak out]," Bluder added Sunday. "I'm not going to say, 'Let's send one player from their team home.' That really isolates the rest of our team, and the rest of our team is pretty good. Also, they had to get by Princeton first."

To their credit, the Mountaineers did exactly that. But in the cauldron that is the NCAA Women's Tournament, for this forever Iowa team, any loose lips are fodder for an edge. This Hawkeyes squad is already dealing with the pent-up emotion over playing its last home game. 

In that sense, they are a bunch of Taylor Swifts on a national tour. For the 33rd time in Iowa's 35 games, there will be a sellout. For Clark and four other seniors, Monday night's game is the culmination of a story not soon to be repeated.

"Oh jeez, why did you say that?" senior guard Kate Martin said to a reporter who reminded her of the end. 

The tears will come, just not now. Martin, a captain, is in her sixth year having been a part of Iowa's rise to national prominence. Clark took it to another level. She is a traditional four-year player in her final collegiate season before she turns pro next month. 

As a freshman, Clark literally played before cardboard cutouts during COVID-19. Now, real-live celebrities elbow for position each Iowa home game to see the best player in the sport. Rapper Travis Scott, basketball royalty Maya Moore and Sue Bird, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, actors Jason Sudeikis and "Jake from State Farm" have all made the pilgrimage to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to lend credibility that it was the place to be. And by extension, they have validated women's basketball.

"It feels like yesterday we were playing in front of nobody," Clark said. "I wanted to play for this school because I love the state of Iowa. I remember running out to our first sold-out crowd, and I got the chills. Now, I get to that every single night. That's not something that ever has gotten old."

Bluder has manufactured a powerhouse at the tail end of her 24 seasons at Iowa. From 2018-21, the Hawkeyes won 42 home games in a row. But only in the last couple of years has Carver-Hawkeye been selling out consistently. Iowa is 13-1 at home this season, the only loss coming in November to Kansas State. In a 30-4 season, the only other losses (Indiana, Ohio State, Nebraska) have come on the road in Big Ten conference play.

As a top seed, Iowa was awarded home games for its first two tournament games. Monday's winner advances to the Sweet 16 in Albany, New York, next weekend.

The memories will be hard to shake. The accomplishments difficult to top. In the space of 17 days in February, Clark broke the NCAA scoring record, the major college women's record and then Pete Maravich's all-time scoring record. And while NBA stars like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Trae Young have made the "logo 3" part of that league's lexicon for years, Clark is at the forefront of making it part of the women's college game.

"She's the face of women's basketball across the country," Bluder said. "Absolutely she's elevated this game. She really creates a lot of buzz whether it's good or whether it's bad. It's a buzz out there. She's taught people they can be passionate about this game, competitive about this game, and they don't have to hide their feelings."

The passion has risen inside the program on the day before that last home game. Kellogg was asked whether his comments added color to a sport that this season featured a brawl (between LSU and South Carolina) and a court storming (at Ohio State, which knocked down Clark.)

"If that's creating conversation, in a sense, yes," Kellogg told CBS Sports. "Now people are talking about women's basketball. Eyes are on women's basketball. People that don't normally watch it may pay attention to that … because they may see it maybe more on the men's side, 'Oh look, the women do that also.' "

Kellogg also explained the clip that went viral -- at least in women's hoops circles -- was only a portion of what he said. 

"I'm not a trash-talking [person]," Kellogg said. "I wasn't out to get Caitlin Clark. … Actually, somebody else in the room is the one who used the 'packing' line to me and it turned into, 'Well, guys, if we want to do something special, we have to win one, and then we'd have to send Caitlin Clark home essentially -- metaphorically."

He added: "What coach in the locker room wouldn't be saying the same thing? You tell me they're not going to say the same thing about us? They got to send us [packing]. That's what this time of year is."

Meanwhile, back in Iowa's locker room, they heard what they heard.

"Unless you like Caitlin, you don't like her," said Iowa assistant Jan Jensen, understanding the sentiment. "You're going to get everybody's best shot. … In a way, it works for West Virginia. They don't want their coach to look bad. …

"It's a dog fight."