IOWA CITY, Ia. – It’s been done before. Iowa’s basketball team won four games in four days to win the Big Ten Tournament in 2001. This after the Hawkeyes lost seven of their last eight regular-season games.
That’s the challenge facing this Iowa team now. Though there is some debate over how many games the Hawkeyes need to win starting Thursday at the Big Ten Tournament to get in the NCAA Tournament, one this is certain:
This team comes in winning six of their last eight games to finish with a 20-11 record. A 9-9 mark in what was considered the toughest conference in the nation this season is a noble accomplishment as well. But none of those wins came over Top 25 teams – the Hawkeyes were 0-5 in those games.
Two of those losses to rated teams came in the season’s first two Big Ten home games, to Indiana, 69-65, and Michigan State, 62-59. Had one of those games gone differently, not to mention crushing losses at Minnesota, 62-59, and at Wisconsin in double overtime, Iowa’s resume would have been stronger.
Asked after Saturday’s win against Nebraska what his team was realistically capable of doing in Chicago, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was short and to the point.
“Winning the Big Ten Tournament,” McCaffery said.
The Indiana and Michigan State losses were the only blemishes in a 16-2 record at home. Saturday’s sellout was the fourth of the Big Ten season, matching the previous five seasons combined. But a lack of a signature victory is troubling in the eyes of bracket projections.
McCaffery, who won 10 games in his first season at Iowa in 2010-11, said his team’s depth, and the probable return of freshman guard Mike Gesell, who has missed the last three games with a foot injury, will help Iowa’s cause.
McCaffery also spent time after the game Saturday pleading the NCAA case for his team.
“I think we deserve tremendous consideration,” said McCaffery, who took his last three Siena teams to the NCAA Tournament before leaving for Iowa.
“I definitely feel like we’re one of the best 68 teams. I think to have gone through this league, clearly the best league in the country, and finished 9-9, I think you look at how we played in our losses, we had a double overtime loss, an overtime loss, we played Michigan State without our leading scorer (Marble), we won three out of four without our third leading scorer and our starting point guard (Gesell). So we’ve accomplished a great deal.”
Iowa opens Big Ten Tournament play against Northwestern Thursday.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball