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Iowa's 2014-15 Big Ten Conference Schedule Breakdown

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With the Big Ten conference schedule now released, we take a look at how things look for the Hawkeyes.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

After the 2013-14 season, the Hawkeyes are looking to build off their return to the NCAA Tournament and a 20 win season that included wins over Illinois, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Xavier.  A lot will depend on their performance in the conference slate.  With the release of the conference schedule, let's take a look at how things stand for Iowa in 2014-15:

Iowa's 2014-15 Big Ten Schedule

Date

Home / Away

Opponent

12/30

Away

Ohio State

1/5

Home

Nebraska

1/8

Home

Michigan State

1/13

Away

Minnesota

1/17

Home

Ohio State

1/20

Away

Wisconsin

1/24

Away

Purdue

1/31

Home

Wisconsin

2/5

Away

Michigan

2/8

Home

Maryland

2/12

Home

Minnesota

2/15

Away

Northwestern

2/19

Home

Rutgers

2/22

Away

Nebraska

2/25

Home

Illinois

2/28

Away

Penn State

3/3

Away

Indiana

3/7

Home

Northwestern

To better summarize the above - here is how the B1G Schedule breaks down:

Home only: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State, Rutgers
Away only: Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue
Both: Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

The Hawkeyes are going to open with a very challenging slate.  Almost every game is challenging in the Big Ten, but Iowa opens with 6 games that are all going to be up in the air.  Just think about this.  Of Iowa's first 6 games, 5 of them are against teams that made the NCAA Tournament and the lone game against a team that did not make the NCAA Tournament is against Minnesota, who won the NIT last year.  Add in that half of those games are on the road and there's a pretty solid chance that Iowa starts with a .500 or below record through its first 6 conference games.

The slate gets a tad easier, but Iowa once again is slammed with some tough games.  They do get Purdue, but then they turn right around with Wisconsin at home and Michigan on the road.  As a reminder, Michigan won the Big Ten last year and Wisconsin made the Final Four.  Yeah ... good luck.  Considering that Purdue and Michigan are on the road, even making it through these 3 games with a 1-2 record should be considered a decent performance.

This is where things ease up.  Iowa gets Maryland and Minnesota at home, faces Northwestern on the road, and then Rutgers at home.  If Iowa is playing well, they could easily sweep these 4 games.  Who knows how Iowa will look after that brutal 9 game opening slate, but you have to think that Iowa is at least close to .500 by this point in the conference season.  Sure, there's a good chance they lose a good share of those first 9 games, but if they can knock off 4 wins in a row, they can't be in too bad of shape.  Obviously, knocking out wins in those first 9 games will be big, especially for quality wins, but that's easier said than done.

It's impossible to anticipate how things will turn out, but I feel very confident in predicting that the most important stretch of Iowa's Big Ten slate is going to be these final 5 games.  With Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Penn State, the Hawkeyes are going to control their own destiny.  Obviously, that last statement is true with any team, but you have to look at things realistically.  Looking at Iowa's Big Ten slate, it can be split up into 3 sections.  There's the very challenging opening, the very manageable middle, and the challenging final 5 games.  If Iowa performs as anticipated in those first two segments, the final 5 games are going to determine where things stand.  If Iowa does well in the final 5, they probably are relevant in March.  If the team falters (again), they're probably going to be sitting on the bubble (again), or worse.  Each of Iowa's final 5 games are winnable and with 3 of them on the road, they can serve as a pretty solid RPI boost.  Iowa needs to go 3-2 in this segment and might even need to go 4-1 to do well in this segment.  Plus, that would give them some breathing room if they start slow.

Every team in the conference is going to have a challenging slate this season simply due to the conference's depth, but Iowa will have a pretty big roller coaster ride in all likelihood.  If the Hawkeyes can avoid a rough start and win their manageable games, they have a pretty solid shot at making it to the Big Dance.  The way I look at things now, I would guess Iowa finishes somewhere around where they did last year at 9-9.  However, things are never set in stone before the year starts, so what are your predictions?