In a not completely surprising development, Iowa announced earlier this week that 2018 will be the final season that the Hawkeyes participate in the annual Hy-Vee Classic.
Iowa announces it is dropping out of the #HyVeeClassic after this season. I feel sad for hoops fans - especially in Des Moines. Anyone want to guess how often UNI or Drake will be on Iowa’s men’s schedule going forward? pic.twitter.com/QA0JbHd79T— Andy Garman (@GarmanSports) June 14, 2018
The Hy-Vee Classic, sometimes referred to as the Big 4 Classic, was an annual event in Des Moines that featured Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Drake participating in a doubleheader similar to the Crossroads Classic that features Purdue, Indiana, Butler and Notre Dame. Of course the Crossroads Classic has a bit more going for it, with all four teams being major college basketball programs.
The news that Iowa would be backing out of the event after 2018 wasn’t a huge surprise as Big Ten teams will have less non-conference games in the future with the push to a 20 game conference season. Mix that with the Gavitt Games and Big Ten / ACC Challenge and you had limited room for non-conference opponents, especially since Iowa would be facing either Northern Iowa or Drake each season. While Iowa is ending participation in the event and doesn’t have either opponent on their future schedule, it should be noted the team’s annual outing against Iowa State will continue.
Predating the Hy-Vee Classic the Hawkeyes traditionally just played all three in-state opponents early in the season, playing Drake annually since 1965 and Northern Iowa every year since 1988. When Iowa and Iowa State backed out of scheduling the mid-major Iowa programs it ultimately ended up leading to the Big 4 Classic so that the teams could still square off, with Iowa and Iowa State rotating the mid-major Iowa programs they face each season. The move didn’t exactly pan out for Iowa, with Northern Iowa and Drake not always being a marquee non-conference opponent and the tradition of having to travel to the smaller in-state schools going away.
With the Hy-Vee Classic adding a clause that allowed teams to back out if their conference set 22 games for a season, and the Big Ten hitting that mark (20 games, Big Ten / ACC Challenge, Gavitt Games), Iowa was able to bow out of the event. With 22 games set, an annual early season tournament and the Iowa State rivalry, the Hawkeyes already had 24-25 games set for each season and doesn’t gain much from playing Northern Iowa and Drake, making the decision a relatively easy one.
Of course Iowa still has to schedule a decent non-conference opponent to make dropping the event worthwhile. While technically unrelated, Iowa announced earlier this week that they’ll host Bryant at the end of December. If Iowa decides to back out of the in-state event to add more single win teams that will only hurt their RPI and SOS it’s going to be hard to justify moving on from the Hy-Vee Classic, which seems likely as some Big Ten teams have gone away from scheduling tougher opponents that could add costly losses to their tournament resume in March.
Iowa is currently 6-1 in the Hy-Vee Classic and will play their last game in the event on December 15 against Northern Iowa.