Iowa enters the Big Ten tournament safely in the NCAA tournament. A blowout loss to the winner of Penn State and Nebraska could push Iowa towards the bubble, but it would be shocking for Iowa to drop out of the tournament all together. According to Joe Lunardi's bracketology, Iowa is a 7-seed.
Since the Big Ten, overall, has been weaker than the past couple of seasons, Iowa has a great opportunity to advance deeply into the tournament. Amongst the Big Ten teams, only Maryland and Wisconsin are considered likely to get a top-3 seed. However, while the Big Ten lacks the standout teams that it did in previous years, the conference is very deep, and teams are looking to make a push to solidify their tournament bids.
In their first game on Thursday, Iowa faces the winner of Penn State vs. Nebraska on Wednesday. With both teams desperate to stay alive in the Big Ten tournament, this game could be potentially problematic for Iowa who has lost to both Northwestern and Minnesota earlier in the season. Iowa will still go into the game as a heavy favorite, led by senior forward Aaron White. I am picking Iowa to win this contest in a close game, closer if Nebraska advances.
If Iowa wins their first Big Ten tournament game, they would face off against Purdue in the quarterfinals on Friday, the 4-seed in the Big Ten tournament and a projected 11-seed by Joe Lunardi's bracketology. Iowa is still the favorite in this game despite the lower Big Ten tournament seeding. This game should be an even contest and both teams are looking to improve their seeding. Despite Purdue's strong performance in the Big Ten this year, I am picking Iowa to advance.
If Iowa wins their first two Big Ten tournament games, they would then face off against 1-seed Wisconsin. While Wisconsin doesn't have the signature wins that a team like Kentucky or Virginia possess, they are projected as a 2-seed and are in the discussion for potential national championship contenders. I believe that Wisconsin is too strong of a team for Iowa to beat, although an upset is certainly possible. Wisconsin will have the advantage of having the extra days to rest, while Iowa would have played in the two consecutive days prior to the match up.
With tired legs and a difficult match-up against Wisconsin's guards and Frank Kaminsky, I believe that Iowa will lose by roughly 10 to 12 points. I am hoping that I am wrong, and that the semi-final game is a much closer contest than Iowa's previous two games against Wisconsin (82-50 and 74-63 losses). A semi-final appearance should bump Iowa up to a 6-seed, depending on their performance in that game and the number of upsets in other conference tournaments across the nation.
Iowa is hoping to make a big NCAA tournament run in Aaron White's senior season and a successful Big Ten tournament will be the foundation for a favorable seeding come Selection Sunday.