In 2014-15, the Iowa Hawkeyes posted a 12-6 record in the Big Ten, tying them with Michigan State and Purdue for the 3rd best record in the conference. Fran McCaffery's team will look to build on this success in 2015-16, but they will have to go through the brutal Big Ten schedule without 2 of their top 3 scorers from last year (Aaron White and Gabriel Olaseni) as they lost both to graduation. Today, we take a look at the key games and stretches of the Iowa Hawkeyes' 2015-16 conference schedule.
Iowa's Key Big Ten Games
-Iowa vs. Michigan State (December 29)
Iowa's first conference game comes against a team they have had little success with over the past few years. The Hawkeyes' have lost their last 7 contests against Tom Izzo's program and will look to turn this around at home on December 29th.
The Hawkeyes' first 5 games in the Big Ten are against Michigan, Purdue, Nebraska, and Michigan State twice. This is a tough stretch to start conference play so this first home game against Michigan State would be a huge way to start the Big Ten slate off with a win. If Iowa loses this game, they could be in danger of a 1-4 start to conference play. Michigan State will probably come in to Carver-Hawkeye Arena as a top-25 team after non-conference play so a win will be even more important for Iowa's resume come March.
-Iowa @ Maryland (January 28)
This will most likely be the toughest test Iowa has all season. Maryland will be a top-10 team to start the season and there's no reason they won't stay there throughout the season. This is the only time Iowa will play the Terrapins in 2015-16 so the Hawkeyes will have to make the most of it. Even if Fran McCaffery's team can't find a way to beat Maryland at College Park, it would be a huge confidence booster for Iowa to be able to hang with the Terrapins and prove to themselves that they are good enough to beat anyone. Of course, a win here would do unbelievable things for the Hawkeyes' NCAA Tournament hopes.
-Iowa @ Penn State (February 17)
While this may not be the most exciting matchup on paper as a Hawkeye fan, this will be a very important win for Iowa to have. Following this game in Happy Valley, the Hawkeyes finish the season by playing Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan. This game won't be a gimme for Iowa either, as a young Penn State team will most likely be much improved by the end of the season and is much better when playing in State College.
The toughest stretch for the Hawkeyes may be the most important as well. As mentioned before, Iowa takes on Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan in its final four games of the season. This includes road contests against Ohio State and Michigan. These last four games have the potential to really help or really hurt Iowa's tournament chances. If the Hawkeyes can pull of a 3-1 record, this will be a great way to finish the season off. On the other hand, if Iowa goes 1-3 or 0-4, they could very well be on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday.
Iowa has one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten in 2015-16 as the 5 teams they play twice are Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State. It will be very hard for Iowa to match their 12-6 record last year. The good news is Fran McCaffery's teams are always well coached and even last year didn't necessarily have as much talent as teams who finished behind them in conference play.