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Can The Hawkeyes Get Off The Bubble in Washington D.C.?

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The Hawkeyes are on the Bubble heading into The Big Ten Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a fun season in Iowa City. A season full of up and downs and multiple winning and losing streaks. The good news is that Hawkeyes are currently in the midst of one of those winning streaks. Iowa has won four straight, defeating Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Penn State to close the final weeks of the regular season.

This week’s Big Ten Tournament is crucial for the Hawkeyes, if they want to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Iowa is currently in Joe Lunardi’s First Four Out group. That could very well change with a victory in the opening round and an upset in the quarterfinals.

Opening Round

Just a little more than two weeks after their only meeting of the regular season, Iowa and Indiana will clash again on Thursday in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The last time these two teams squared off the Hawkeyes claimed a 96-90 overtime victory over the Hoosiers in a game which Peter Jok went off for 35 points.

The key for Iowa to win and move on to the next round will be to keep doing what they’ve been doing during this recent winning streak. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. Iowa has held their opponent to under 45 percent shooting in their last three contests. The defense has also caused 13 or more turnovers in their last three games.

The Hawkeyes caused 22 Indiana turnovers in the last matchup. If Iowa can do that again, the Hawkeyes should have no problem advancing to the next round. Causing turnovers allows Iowa to get out on the break and get plenty of scramble situations that is dangerous for opponents because of the open threes for excellent shooters Jok, Jordan Bohannon and Nicholas Baer.

If They Advance

Getting past Indiana means taking on the #2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers. Iowa just beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center on March 2nd. The Hawkeyes will come into this potential matchup with a bit of confidence. Last time out, the Hawkeye defense forced the Badgers into 13 turnovers and held them to 42 percent shooting.

On the offensive end, Nicholas Baer had a excellent game with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. He’ll have to put in a similar performance if the Hawkeyes want to derail the Badgers once again. Along with Baer, Cordell Pemsl also chipped in 10 points. The Iowa bench outscored the Badgers bench 24-4, if Iowa can get that same result again, look out.

One thing Iowa fans should worry about is that star player Jok was limited to 8 points on 2-10 shooting the last time out, dealing with tough defense from a combination of ZaK Showalter, D'Mitrik Trice, and Jordan Hill. Jok will have to play better, if the Hawkeyes are going to defeat the Badgers for the second time in nine days.

If Iowa is able to pull off another win against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes will likely face Maryland or Northwestern. Iowa is 1-1 against Maryland and 0-1 against Northwestern this season.

Overall

I like Iowa’s chances to get past Indiana and move on to the quarterfinals. In a revenge game for Wisconsin, I still give Iowa a 40 percent chance of taking down the Badgers. Fran McCaffery and the squad know what’s at stake. Simply put, beating Wisconsin is the team’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Even if Iowa falls short against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes still have a puncher’s chance of getting in the Big Dance.

No matter what happens in Washington, D.C., Iowa fans have to be pleased with the job McCaffery has done this season with this young squad.