The Hawkeyes had an exciting season filled with up and down play. Iowa’s inconsistent play led them to this year's NIT Tournament. Let's look at their season.
Coming into the season, the Hawkeyes were an afterthought in the Big Ten and expected to have a rebuilding year. With a roster full of sophomores and freshmen, it wasn’t surprising that no one had Iowa on their radar coming into this season. Throughout this season Iowa has exceeded expectations and had been a middle of the pack team in the conference fighting for a unexpected NCAA Tournament birth.
Iowa’s non-conference schedule was difficult enough in terms of getting the team ready for Big Ten play. The school scheduled a mix of mid-majors and power five schools like Virginia, Norte Dame and Iowa State. The Hawkeyes got off to a horrible start to their non-conference slate, going 3-5 in their first eight games. The team lost to Seton Hall at home, and got absolutely destroyed by Virginia (74-41) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Luckily from Iowa fans, their team finished the non-conference on a positive note. Fran McCaffery and company took down in-state rivals Iowa State and Northern Iowa to wrap up the non-conference schedule. The Hawks came into Big Ten play on five-game winning streak and with an overall record of 8-5.
Iowa carried over their momentum to the start of conference play. The Hawks went 3-2 in their first five games, beating Michigan and upsetting Purdue in that stretch. Senior guard Peter Jok was special in that stretch, leading the team in scoring in every game. Jok averaged 19.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season, which was good enough for first team all-conference.
After starting the conference season 3-2, the team went on to lose their next three games against Northwestern, Maryland and Illinois. Iowa rebounded though, going on three-game winning streak, knocking off Ohio State, Rutgers and Nebraska. Jordan Bohannon was named Big Ten Freshman of the week during that stretch.
Just when Hawkeye fans thought their team turned the corner, the team went back to their old ways with inconsistent play. Iowa went on to lose their next three games, losing to Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois.
The turning point for Iowa came after the second three-game losing streak. The Hawkeyes closed the Big Ten season on a four-game winning streak, knocking off Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin and Penn State. Bohannon was a vital piece during the winning streak, he had double-digit scoring in three of the four wins.
After being in the group of the “First Four Out” Iowa got a 1 seed in region four of the NIT. The Hawkeyes will host South Dakota on Wednesday night (7PM - ESPN2). South Dakota finished 1st in the Summit League regular season, but lost in the semifinal of their conference tournament. If Iowa moves on from their first round game, the Hawkeyes will play the winner of TCU and Fresno State.
With home court advantage I like Iowa’s chances to win their first two games. The way this team has improved in the final stretch of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iowa make it to New York for the NIT Final Four. Iowa is 5-2 in NIT games under Fran McCaffery, including 3-0 mark in home games.