For whatever reason, Iowa’s men just can’t handle Nebraska in the revenue sports this year. It started in football, when the Hawkeyes fell behind 24-7 and lost to a Cornhuskers squad that came in 3-8.
It continued in basketball, when Iowa closed out 2022 with a 66-50 loss in Lincoln that was never all that close. And it reached its peak Sunday, when the Huskers overcame 15 turnovers and completed a sweep of the Hawkeyes with an 81-77 win over Iowa in Iowa City.
The last of the three could represent a major cause for concern. Nebraska had never before swept Iowa as a member of the Big Ten. The Huskers had only ever won once before in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, winless there since 2012. And it was Iowa’s senior day, marking the last home game for Connor McCaffery and Filip Rebraca.
None of it mattered, as Nebraska made the plays it needed to win the game. And now Iowa will open as the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday, facing Ohio State. But how does this impact the Hawkeyes’ overall situation as they head to Chicago for the Big Ten tournament? Let’s take a look.
Iowa’s Still In the NCAA Tournament
Had the Hawkeyes not just boatraced Indiana on Tuesday, they’d actually have reason to sweat out their situation. 18-13 and 10th in the Big Ten looks a lot different than 19-12 and 5th. But the Hawkeyes are absolutely playing for their seed and you might still be able to bet on March Madness in Iowa.
You can rest assured that betting in March Madness in Iowa is legal. With a win or two in Chicago, Iowa could find itself as a No. 6 or No. 7 seed and draw a very winnable first-round matchup. If the Hawkeyes flame out in round 1, they could drop to a No. 9 or No. 10 and face a very difficult first round game, not to mention a possible meeting with a No. 1 or No. 2 if they survive the first round.
But Iowa’s going to qualify no matter what it does on Thursday. The Hawkeyes have done enough to feel safe with their situation; now their goal is to use these games to better it and get themselves ready for the NCAA tournament.
Nebraska 81, Iowa 77#Hawkeyes
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 5, 2023
What Does Iowa’s Opener Look Like?
The Hawkeyes could draw a tricky test, or this game could be a walk in the park. First, it’s probably better for Iowa if it draws Ohio State instead of Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes have zero chance to make the NCAA tournament unless they win five games in five days, and that’s not likely to happen considering that Ohio State hasn’t won five games in the previous two months. Granted, one of the four wins for the Buckeyes came against Iowa, but the fact remains that Ohio State has little to play for.
Wisconsin is different. The Badgers believe that if they can beat Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State, they’re going to make the NCAA tournament. That makes the Badgers very dangerous, because they should come in with plenty of motivation.
Iowa will have to match that in order to get past its first Big Ten tournament game. The Hawkeyes do have one big advantage: their ability to push the basketball could wear down the winner of the first game, as either the Badgers or Buckeyes will have to turn around and play Iowa less than 24 hours after their opener.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 8, 2023
What About Iowa’s Second Game?
The Hawkeyes probably could have done a lot better than having to play Michigan State again. The Spartans have won five of their past seven games, with the exceptions being the Michigan game in Ann Arbor, played after the tragic shooting in East Lansing, and the overtime miracle in Iowa City.
Michigan State is playing well right now outside of extenuating circumstances, and the Spartans likely have revenge on their mind in facing Iowa again.
The good news for Iowa is that a game with Michigan State is strictly a chance for bonus points with the committee. The Spartans would count as a Quad 1 game, so losing to them would do no harm to Iowa’s profile. This game represents only opportunity, and with Purdue probably waiting in the semifinals, it might be the last opportunity the Hawkeyes realistically have.
What Does Iowa Need to Fix After Nebraska?
The Hawkeyes can’t let a team shoot 58% on them again. Nebraska went nuts from the floor in that contest, in large part because the Iowa defense was either get a steal or give up an open look. Iowa’s always going to give up some open shots because of how it plays, but the Hawkeyes have to cut that back to a reasonable level.
Last year, Iowa raced past Big Ten opponents in Indianapolis on the way to the Big Ten tournament title, only to come up against a Richmond team that refused to run with Iowa and forced the Hawkeyes to instead hit shots.
Iowa couldn’t do it and fell in the first round, marking the ninth straight time the Hawkeyes failed to get out of the first weekend. If the Hawkeyes want to still be playing basketball in two weeks, they’ve either got to force more turnovers or, more likely, start making some shots.
Connor McCaffery has been around the @IowaHoops program for half his life.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 8, 2023
Credits: Geoffrey Fairchild