The Postseason Begins
Instead reliving a rough week for the men's basketball team, I will just say this: The Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday night walked into a buzzsaw in Madison. They were outplayed in almost every category and Thursday was just a night to forget, and they looked to have shaken it against Nebraska. For more than 30 minutes of that game, Iowa was the better team. They seemed to have found their shooting stroke and looked like a team that had a renewed dedication to defense and effort. Then, they took their foot off the gas. I thought a lot about how I felt about the overtime loss to Nebraska, and I am hopeful. Iowa showed they weren't a lost cause. They shot the ball better, the effort was there for a majority of the game, and they looked again like a team that could do some damage in postseason play. They just didn't finish, and that, much like the shooting woes that they shook on Sunday, can be corrected. Now, let's look at the week to come: The Big Ten Tournament in Chicago!
A Look Ahead
Iowa will enter play as the 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament this year, getting a first round bye as they await the winner of 11/14 seed matchup of Illinois vs. Northwestern.
Iowa has played both Illinois and Northwestern this season, going a combined 3-0 against the two teams.
In the matchup with Illinois on January 20, the Hawks were on fire, shooting 68% from the field and 71% from behind the 3-point line en route to scoring 95 points. Joe Wieskamp, Isaiah Moss, and Luka Garza combined to score 65 of Iowa's 95 point that night. After the game, Illinois coach told the media, "That's being taken out to the woodshed."
In the first matchup with Northwestern, Iowa traveled to Evanston and defeated the Wildcats 73-63. Iowa played that game shorthanded, with Tyler Cook sitting out with an ankle injury. Iowa rode their defense and balanced scoring, with five Iowa players scoring more than 8 points, and no one scoring more than 19.
The second meeting between the Hawkeyes and Wildcats will go down in history as one of the most memorable and improbable comebacks in Iowa basketball. The Hawks were down 14 with less than four minutes left in the game and came back, winning on a clutch Jordan Bohannon 3-pointer with a fraction of second remaining. The Hawks did this in spite of missing a dozen shots in near the basket or wide-open jumpshots and showed strength and resilience on a night where they didn't play their best.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, I will be a Wildcats fan on Wednesday. Illinois is a much tougher matchup for this Iowa team. They play strong on the ball defense and pride themselves on causing mayhem for their opponents, which is something that Iowa has struggled with recently. Northwestern has been playing a slower, methodical brand of basketball and really doesn't have a ton of size to matchup with Iowa's bigs. Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, I think Iowa has a favorable matchup and should advance to the quarterfinals for a date with Michigan, who Iowa defeated in their only matchup this season.
In general, if Iowa can clean some things up at the offensive end and show the same amount of energy they demonstrated in the first 35+ minutes of the Nebraska game, they got a pretty good draw for matchups on their side of the brackets. The two teams that they struggled the most with, the No. 1 and No. 4 seed in Michigan State and WIsconsin, are on the other side of the bracket. Iowa played extremely well against Michigan and seemed to matchup pretty well in their only meeting. Purdue is awaiting the winner of the Penn State/Minnesota game, which are two of the teams playing the best entering postseason play. It would not surprise me if Purdue got upset by either Penn State or Minnesota, depending on who comes out of that game.
I think there should be a fair amount of hope for this Iowa team. Despite their struggles and all of the frustration that Hawkeye Nation has experienced late this season, this team has all the pieces. Their success will be dictated by how well they put those pieces together. I think they put the pieces together and play at least 2 games in the tournament, with a chance to do some real damage.
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