It’s been quite a ride for the Iowa Hawkeyes this season. After a fast start to the season, Iowa had a few missteps in Big Ten play, but was able to recover. However, things have fallen apart heading into the Big Ten Tournament and the Hawkeyes have now lost four straight and five of the team’s last six games heading into the postseason.
So, can Iowa get things back on track this week? Let’s take a look.
As the six seed, Iowa will tipoff play in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday against the winner of the Illinois and Northwestern game. It figures to be an interesting game between a reeling Iowa team and an opponent in desperation mode. Illinois and Northwestern have no shot at an at-large bid this season, so their seasons are riding on winning the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. As such, expect them to come out firing.
There’s little disputing that Iowa will be favored regardless of which opponent it faces on Thursday evening. The Hawkeyes are significantly higher on KenPom than both opponents and have a substantially better record. After all, there’s a reason why Illinois and Northwestern’s seasons will likely end in Chicago this week.
Still, this won’t be a guaranteed win. To start, Iowa has been reeling in recent weeks. The Hawkeyes have lost four straight and five of six. And several of those losses have also come in blowout fashion. Illinois has also bounced back over the last month or so and Northwestern has taken a number of good teams to the edge this season.
If Iowa ends up facing Illinois, the primary goal will have to be slowing down Ayo Dosunmu. If it’s Northwestern, the main question will be about Vic Law’s status. He went down with an injury last weekend and is arguably Northwestern’s best player.
-If They Advance
Should Iowa make it past Illinois or Northwestern on Thursday, it will move on for a matchup against Michigan on Friday. Given the fact that the Wolverines are ranked in the top 10 in the human polls and on KenPom, there’s little debating that this will be a tough matchup. Michigan is a really good team and will be looking to get back on track after falling short against Michigan State last weekend.
However, while the Wolverines are ranked among the top 10 nationally and were just a game away from winning the Big Ten title, this is a winnable game for Iowa. Not only because the Hawkeyes beat Michigan earlier this season, but also because Michigan has also been relatively inconsistent over the last month. Of course, Iowa will certainly have to play better to get the win.
Should Iowa find its way past Michigan, it would then likely move on for a matchup against Purdue on Saturday afternoon. Like Michigan, Purdue is undeniably a better team than Iowa. The Boilermakers are in the top 10 on KenPom and have only lost two games over the last two months. Iowa can’t expect to go into this game and win without a great effort.
But even if Purdue is a great team, it still is far from unbeatable. The Boilermakers just lost to Minnesota last week and nearly lost to teams like Indiana, Nebraska, and Penn State during the regular season. Purdue also lost to a mediocre Notre Dame team in non-conference play. Iowa dropped the only regular season meeting between the two.
After that, Iowa would likely be looking at either Michigan State or Wisconsin in a potential championship game. Those three teams are all ranked above Iowa on KenPom, so things would be getting even tougher at that point.
Things haven’t gone all that smoothly for the Hawkeyes over the last month of the regular season. Iowa has lost five of its last six games and its only wins over the last seven games have come in dramatic fashion. These struggles have not only hurt the team’s postseason seeding, but have dropped it from 24th nationally on KenPom to 41st heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa will now hope to get back on track with some winnable games in front of it in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes will undoubtedly be favored on Thursday and do have a road past Michigan on Friday. It should be an interesting set of games to follow in the coming days.
All told, Iowa should be set for an intriguing week. The Hawkeyes are a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament, but need to get some positive momentum going again after its recent struggles. Can Iowa get it done? We’ll find out shortly.