Iowa will provide the drama in Big Ten Tourney

There doesn’t appear to be much drama in the Big Ten tourney. Indiana likely already has the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tourney sewn up after winning the outright Big Ten crown with that breath-taking victory at Michigan on Sunday.

Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois all seemingly have spots in the NCAA tourney wrapped up no matter what happens in Chicago. So, instead of playing for Big Dance bids, they all are left to jockey for NCAA seeds, which still don’t figure to change much based on the Big Ten tourney results.

[ RELATED: View the 2012-13 Big Ten tourney bracket ]

So, if you are looking for thick drama, look no further than Iowa, the team with the most on line in the Big Ten tourney, which opens on Thursday at the United Center in Chicago. In fact, Iowa is the ultimate bubble team.

How many games does Iowa need to win in the Big Ten tourney to secure its first NCAA tourney bid since 2006? Good question. First, consider what the 20-11 Hawkeyes have accomplished thus far.

Fran McCafferyIowa is 9-9 in the Big Ten, the best league in America according to the ratings indexes. But its resume isn’t overwhelming.

The Hawkeyes’ best Big Ten wins came at home vs. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. That’s not bad—but it’s not great, either. The bad losses: at Virginia Tech; at Purdue; at Nebraska.

Iowa is hurt by a poor non-conference schedule. The lone quality wins were at home vs. Iowa State and vs. Northern Iowa on a neutral court. Otherwise, Iowa beat no team of note in non-conference play. And the Hawkeyes are 0-6 vs. Top 25 teams. The only other Big Ten that failed to beat a Top 25 squad was Nebraska (0-9).

RealTimeRPI.com has Iowa No. 72.

The only Big Ten teams lower are Nebraska at 101; Purdue 115; Northwestern 165; Penn State 180.

And the Hawkeyes’ strength of schedule is 98th, which is by far the lowest in the Big Ten. The only league teams even remotely close are Northwestern at 64 and Purdue at 48.

Iowa will bring some mojo to Chicago for the Big Ten tourney, having won six of its last eight games. But one of those defeats was a 64-60 loss at Nebraska in a game the Hawkeyes needed to win.

[ RELATED: These under-the-radar players could be big in Big Ten tourney ]

So, how many games does Iowa need to win in Chicago?

One?

Two?

Three games in the Big Ten tourney to punch its NCAA ticket?

Does it need to win the event to secure the Big Ten’s automatic bid?

Some think two wins in the Big Ten tourney will suffice. Not me. I think the Hawkeyes have to win the event to get in.

The No. 6 seed Hawkeyes open vs. No. 11 Northwestern on Thursday. Win that, and a game looms with No. 3 Michigan State. Win that, and No. 2 Ohio State may be waiting in the semifinals. Win that, and No. 1 Indiana may be waiting in the championship game on Sunday.

[ RELATED: Vote in our 2012-13 Big Ten Dunk of the Year bracket ]

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery pleaded his case after his team closed the regular season with a home win over Nebraska on Saturday.

“I think we deserve tremendous consideration,” said McCaffery. “I definitely feel like we’re one of the best 68 teams. I think to have gone through this league, clearly the best league in the country, and finished 9-9, I think you look at how we played in our losses, we had a double overtime loss (at Wisconsin), an overtime loss (at Purdue), we played Michigan State without our leading scorer (Roy Devyn Marble), we won three out of four without our third leading scorer and our starting point guard (Mike Gesell). So we’ve accomplished a great deal.”

Stay tuned for some drama.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.

Find out more about:

10 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (10 Comments)
Justin on 3/11/2013 @ 3:41pm EST Said:

Penn State beat Michigan

Doug on 3/11/2013 @ 4:10pm EST Said:

PSU almost swept Michigan, what a first round nightmare matchup for the wolverines

Jefferson on 3/11/2013 @ 4:41pm EST Said:

How did the gophers and Illinois get in and they finished behind the hawks. It should be how you are playing now not games 4 months ago.

Dan on 3/11/2013 @ 4:57pm EST Said:

I agree with Jefferson.

Matt on 3/11/2013 @ 4:58pm EST Said:

You do realize you just predicted what every team has to do, besides the 7 you say are locks. Also, I understand you may not want to sound bias towards the BIG but step out on a limb. If your conference writers/announcers don’t step up for your teams why would anyone on a national level.

Ben on 3/11/2013 @ 8:04pm EST Said:

Tom, I really think you are way off base here. If Iowa beats NW and then upsets MSU, they are in. I’m sure of it — barring other terrible teams across the country winning their conference tournaments. And quite honestly if Iowa wins those two games, MN could be on the outside looking in. Are you watching the games? MN can’t tie their shoelaces outside of the Barn.

You can’t have it both ways — everybody keeps saying that IL and MN are locks (even though MN is playing like absolute garbage right now — they don’t deserve anything regardless of the ‘numbers’), yet Iowa beat them both. Iowa lost to MN in MN in OT. Iowa killed MN at home. Iowa beat IL at home. Iowa doesn’t have the garbage loss that IL has (NW at home) which to me negates their IU win. MN has lost 8 straight road games!!!!! That’s simply atrocious. If they don’t beat IL in the first round they don’t even deserve the NIT.

Jamie on 3/11/2013 @ 10:39pm EST Said:

First, when did it become more about analytics and not about getting the best teams in? Iowa > Minnesota & Illinois regardless of what the RPI says. How can you argue that? Do you hire the applicant with the best resume or the one that demonstrated they were more qualified head to head?
Second, don’t get why the BTN isn’t “campaigning” a little to help out a conference team. It is as if they’re doing the opposite.

CDrahos on 3/11/2013 @ 11:22pm EST Said:

Tom’s just bitter that his beloved Boilers are trash

CDrahos on 3/12/2013 @ 12:32am EST Said:

Also, since when is your non-conference slate more important than your conference opponents? Isn’t the non-conference season supposed to get your team ready for the meat of your schedule?

Doug on 3/12/2013 @ 11:01am EST Said:

CDrahos, Tom loves Michigan, he’s still trying to get over them being a 5th seed !