The Iowa women’s basketball team will play host to an NCAA regional in March. Until recently, it has been safe to assume that the Hawkeyes will be part of the festivities.
Iowa started the season by winning 16 of its first 21 games. Among its victories were games with Iowa State and Purdue, both of which are ranked. It also has split with Michigan, which is not ranked but is one of the better Big Ten teams at this stage of the season. Iowa also has a home win over No. 18 Purdue, which looks better and better.
As an aside, Iowa’s game notes continue to state that the Hawkeyes “are a perfect 6-0 against ranked opponents this season. Iowa is the only team in the country to have played at least three ranked teams and have an undefeated record against ranked opponents.”
This is what we used to call a Brendel stat when I was covering the University of Missouri. Bob Brendel is an outstanding sports information guy, but his notes always contained some bizarre, albeit true, note like “the Tigers are 2-1 when playing Saturday games on artificial turf with a temperature below 34 degrees under a full moon.”
That’s kind of what Iowa’s note is. The fact is that Iowa lost to North Carolina and Florida State, now ranked 14th and 19th, respectively. The Hawks defeated then-ranked West Virginia, Texas and Ohio State, all of whom have turned out to be paper tigers. Early season women’s basketball polls are notoriously inaccurate. For example, if your name is Texas you will be ranked early in the season. It’s just the way it is.
So take that claim with a grain of salt. Still, Iowa was 16-5 and 5-2 in the Big Ten. Then came four losses in a row: home games against Northwestern and Nebraska, road games at Illinois and Minnesota. Now the record is 16-9 and 5-6 in the Big Ten.
Note that this column was written before Iowa’s Thursday night game against eighth-ranked Penn State. A win against the Nittany Lions would not only stop the bleeding but also put Iowa in position to finish with a .500 record in the league. That might well be enough to save an NCAA bid.
But assuming Iowa doesn’t pull off the upset, it leaves the Hawks with a 16-10 overall record and 5-7 in the Big Ten. The remaining schedule includes road games at Purdue and Nebraska, very tough assignments, and one at Northwestern, that at this point has to be considered a toss-up. Iowa has a home game against hapless Indiana sandwiched in there, and that is a game the Hawks will win.
If Iowa goes 2-2 in the final four games, its record is 18-12 and 7-9 in the Big Ten. That is dangerous bubble territory and Iowa would want to win at least one Big Ten tournament game to bolster its resume even though the selection committee will knock itself out to save a “home” team.
The other problem is that Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State all have better RPIs than Iowa. Although Iowa’s isn’t terrible at 33, it is sixth in the Big Ten. And if the Hawks go 2-2 in their last four games that RPI might go higher.
So as a public service we’re offering an incentive to Iowa’s women’s basketball team.
If you do not make the NCAA tournament, you may be playing host to your arch-rival. Yes, Iowa State is 17-5 and 8-4 in the Big 12 with an RPI of 23. The team you constantly recruit against could be sent to your home gym to compete because the NCAA is going to want somebody here who can sell tickets. That’s why the NCAA has this hybrid system of awarding home regionals even though it perverts the selection process and provides a big home-court advantage (mostly to teams who do not need it: Stanford, Baylor, UConn, Maryland to name a few).
So, Iowa, the ball is in your court. You’d better pick it up or your worst nightmare will be strolling the halls of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Reach Susan Harman at email@example.com or 339-7369.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball