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