Iowa’s men’s basketball team will play its first game in the Big Ten Tournament on March 14 at the United Center in Chicago, Ill. That much is certain.
The rest is as congested as a traffic jam on the Dan Ryan. With one game left in the regular season, Iowa could be the sixth, seventh or eighth seed in next week’s sold-out tournament.
The Hawkeyes will have a hand in determining their fate on Saturday against Nebraska, but a logjam at the top and the middle of the league race leaves plenty up in the air.
The scenarios are long and complicated. Let’s just cut to the chase and cover the most likely scenario.
If Iowa beats Nebraska in the regular-season finale Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and Purdue beats visiting Minnesota, the Hawkeyes will be the No. 6 seed in Chicago. Iowa’s foe would be Northwestern, unless the Wildcats beat Penn State today and win Sunday at Michigan State. That Iowa-Northwestern game would start at approximately 8 p.m. and be televised by ESPN2.
If Iowa beats Nebraska in the regular-season finale Saturday and Minnesota wins at Purdue, the Hawkeyes would be the No. 7 seed and play Nebraska. That game will tip at 5:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN2.
If Iowa loses to Nebraska Saturday, it could fall to the 8th seed. Emphasis on could. The myriad of tiebreakers could keep them at a No. 6 (a lot of crazy things would have to happen) or No. 7 seed, even in defeat.
Tournament seeding is at the front of basketball talk these days. But the Hawkeyes, 19-10 overall and 8-9 in the Big Ten, are on the cusp of some significant accomplishments.
An Iowa win and losses by Illinois and Minnesota would give the Hawkeyes sixth place in the conference standings to themselves. It would be Iowa’s first first-division finish in the Big Ten since a three-way tie for fourth in the 2006-07 season.
A victory over the Cornhuskers would also give Iowa coach Fran McCaffery his 300th career victory. And it would give Iowa a 20-win season for the first time since the 2005-06 team finished 25-9.
That 2005-06 season also marks the last time an Iowa team has played in the NCAA Tournament. Most analysts think that this year’s team needs to win Saturday and get the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to get serious consideration.
Finishing 9-9 in the conference standings is not an automatic ticket to the Big Dance. Since the Big Ten went to an 18-game league schedule in 2007-08, there have been three 10-8 teams that didn’t get into the NCAAs. Two of those three won the NIT championship.
Illinois didn’t get in at 10-8 in 2009-10, but a 9-9 Minnesota team did. The Illini won a game in the Big Ten Tournament , too, but lost to Ohio State in the semifinals in double overtime. Illinois went to the NIT and lost in the third round to Dayton.
Penn State was 10-8 in 2008-09, and won a first-round Big Ten Tournament game before losing in the quarterfinals. The Nittany Lions won the NIT.
And Ohio State was left out of the NCAAs with a 10-8 record in 2007-08. The Buckeyes lost their first game in the Big Ten Tournament and settled for a championship run in the NIT.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball