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Iowa Basketball Faces Tricky Big Ten Schedule in 2017-18

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The young Hawkeyes look to navigate a trap game heavy schedule

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Indiana Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Iowa Hawkeyes won back-to-back road games against the Maryland Terrapins and Wisconsin Badgers near the end of the regular season to vault them to 10 conference wins. This year, however, the Hawkeyes avoid a road gauntlet like the one they faced at the tail end of last season.

Penn State Nittany Lions (12/2 in Iowa City and 2/3 in State College)

Opening the Big Ten slate at home will provide a nice energy boost against Penn State in what are usually sleepy affairs. The game in State College is the definition of a trap game as it is sandwiched between home contests against Minnesota and Michigan State.

Indiana Hoosiers (12/4 in Bloomington and 2/17 in Iowa City)

The Hawkeyes are the lucky opponent to greet Archie Miller in his Big Ten home debut. The December tilt will be an early season barometer test for both schools, while they meet again two months later as the Big Ten season begins to wind down and jockeying for better seeding is on the line. The Hawks would love nothing more than to sweep the Hoosiers to avenge last year’s Big Ten Tournament debacle.

Michigan Wolverines (1/2 in Iowa City and 2/14 in Ann Arbor)

The reigning Big Ten Tournament champions come to town for the first game of the new year. Much like the Indiana game a month before, the first game here will provide a glimpse as to what Iowa’s pack standing is. The late season road game at the Crisler Center figures to be one of the last chances Iowa will get at a resume padding victory.

Ohio State Buckeyes (1/4 in Iowa City and 2/10 in Columbus)

The Hawkeyes look to gain momentum early in the Big Ten season by needing to put away a beatable Buckeye squad. Beating a team they should beat will lift the young Hawks’ confidence early. The game in Columbus is sandwiched between a home contest against Michigan State and the aforementioned road game in Ann Arbor, another trap game for Iowa.

Maryland Terrapins (1/7 in College Park)

Iowa will try and repeat history and win their second straight game at the Xfinity Center. This will take place the first Sunday of January and would be a nice feather in the cap for the Hawks if they can steal another win on the east coast.

Illinois Fighting Illini (1/11 in Champaign)

Looking to avenge last year’s sweep, Iowa gets only one crack at an Illinois squad that is searching for an identity. These two teams have played close, sometimes ugly, games recently and Iowa will need to find a spark early and overcome the raucous Orange Krush.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1/17 in Piscataway)

Coming off of a 20 point win last year in New Jersey, the Hawkeyes will to cap a three game road trip off with the same amount of style. Putting a away a team they can handle will help forge the killer instinct the team needs as they head toward choppier waters in the Big Ten.

Purdue Boilermakers (1/20 in Iowa City)

Iowa returns home to welcome the defending Big Ten regular season champions in what will be an electric atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game will take place on Saturday as the students begin to trickle back to campus from winter break. Iowa will play the role of the hunter and pounce on Purdue early, they cannot afford to give them an inch.

Wisconsin Badgers (1/23 in Iowa City)

The Badgers coming to town right after Purdue make this two game home stretch very critical for Iowa’s Big Ten standing. The Hawkeyes stunned the Badgers at the Kohl Center last year and Wisconsin will certainly look to return the favor this time around during the only meeting between these two rivals. I’m guessing head coach Fran McCaffery will get a technical as he does every year against Wisconsin.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (1/27 in Lincoln)

Last season the Hawkeyes dropped a gut-wrenching double overtime game to Nebraska at the Pinnacle Bank Arena that saw Peter Jok score 34 points. The Hawks are without Jok, but will need to find the killer instinct to put away a rival that figures to have a down year. This is another trap game and Iowa needs to come out firing and not awake the usual sleepy Nebraskaball crowd.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (1/30 in Iowa City and 2/21 in Minneapolis)

Whenever these two teams collide there is always controversy and heated moments. A late season home-and-home will stoke the rivalry flame as Iowa will look to finish above a heated rival in the Big Ten standings. Iowa’s second to last game of the year is in Minneapolis and will be must see basketball.

Michigan State Spartans (2/6 in Iowa City)

The lone crack at the Spartans will be in Iowa City late in the season. The last time Sparty visited Carver-Hawkeye Arena, they were ushered off the floor as the Hawkeye faithful mobbed the court and celebrated a victory of the number one team in the country. Michigan State figures to be an improved club and Iowa will have their hands full in pulling off another victory.

Northwestern Wildcats (2/25 in Iowa City)

Senior Day comes with the last game of the season as Iowa takes on the darlings of the college basketball world. Northwestern ran the Hawkeyes off the court in Evanston last season, and Iowa will have revenge on their minds and look to cap their season with a big win.

Outlook

As Iowa’s young core gains more and more experience they will position themselves better for the high impact games in February. The winnable games for Iowa include: Penn State (x2), Ohio State (x2), at Illinois, at Rutgers, and at Nebraska. Seven wins are there for the Hawkeyes if they can take care of business and avoid the road game sleepiness that has plagued the Hawks this past decade.

I don’t want to completely count Iowa out of any games, but coming up short at Indiana, at Maryland, at Minnesota, and home to Michigan State would not surprise anyone.

That leaves seven games up for grabs and those seven games will define Iowa’s season. Another season with a double digit Big Ten win total is very much in the crosshairs for this team. They are also fortunate that the bulk of their toss-up games are played at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

If they fair well they will be knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament, but a lackluster showing could lead to the fourth NIT appearance for Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes.