A Brief History Of Iowa And The Big Ten Hoopyball Tournament

For the past 14 years, Iowa's season has been guaranteed not to end with some random Big Ten game, but with (at the very least) a stop in the Big Ten Tournament.  Never one to sit on the sidelines while a perfectly good money-spinning venture was sitting right there, Herr Delany got the Big Ten on the conference tournament money train back in 1998, guaranteeing each and every team in the league a "March situation" -- whether they wanted it or not. 

Iowa's own history in the tournament is almost entirely feast or famine, with a few exciting runs to the final surrounded by many (many, many) first-round exits.  So let's take a whirl in Mister Peabody's WABAC machine and take a gander at Iowa's history in the tourney...

1998: Iowa christened their inaugural trip to the BTT with a 5-seed and a date with a team that would later become their most persistent nemesis: Michigan.  As always happens when Iowa plays Michigan in this tournament, the good guys lost.  In fact, that year's Michigan team rode their 4-seed all the way to a BTT title.

1999: Dr. Tom's second (and final) trip to the BTT also featured Iowa as a 5-seed -- and also featured a first-round exit, this time to Wisconsin.  Dr. Tom ended his Iowa tenure 0-2 in the mini-dance; that year's winner was the first of many for Sparty.

2000: Coach Redacted made his debut in the tournament that would become the source of his greatest achievements and, indeed, brought Iowa their first BTT win in his first try, an 81-78 triumph over Minnesota in the 7/10 game.  The journey came to a screeching halt in the next round, as Iowa lost to Michigan State, who went on to defend their BTT crown -- and add a national title, too.

2001: Success!  Sweet beautiful success!  Iowa became the first and (so far only) team to win four games in four days and take the Big Ten Tourney title.  At the 6-seed, they're also the lowest-seed team to ever win the event.  If ever you're a team playing on the first day, the 2001 Iowa squad is the one you can point to as a reason for having hope in winning the whole shebang.  Iowa started the tourney with a 72-55 win over jNW, followed that with a 75-66 win over Ohio State, added a 94-74 stomping of Penn State, and topped it all with a 63-61 win over Indiana in the title game.  To be fair, Iowa got a little help along the way -- the 1- and 2-seeds (Michigan State and Illinois) both got knocked off before Iowa had to play them -- but that tournament remains one of my favorite memories involving Iowa hoops.  That was the team with Luke Recker, Reggie Evans, and Brody Boyd -- they were a fun, kinda scrappy bunch and seeing them come together to get red-hot and win four games in four days was tremendous.  It was also arguably the highpoint of the Coach Redacated Era at Iowa.

2002: Could lightning really strike twice?  Well... no, but damn if it didn't try.  Once again, Iowa played four games in four days; this time it ended in sadness, though, as Iowa came up short in the title game.  It was around this time that Coach Redacted became "Mr. Big Ten Tournament."  He could be counted on to blow more than a few games in conference play, but get him in a conference tournament -- and sit back and let the magic happen.  Iowa upped the degree of difficulty this year by entering as a 9-seed; they whalloped Purdue in the first round, eked by Wisconsin in the quarterfinals, slipped by Indiana in the semifinals, and then ran out of gas against Ohio State in the finals.  It was still an impressive, entertaining run.

2003: OH NOES!  Coach Redacted's three-year winning streak in BTT opening round games was cruelly snapped this year; Ohio State nipped them to a 66-64 win.  I remember not a thing about this year.

2004: GASP!  What has happened to our BTT mojo?  Another year, another first-round exit.  Iowa entered with a 4-seed, but fell to -- who else? -- Michigan in the quarterfinals.  Another year I remember nothing about.  Iowa was in a comfy cocoon of mediocrity right around this point.

2005: BOOM!  Back to success!  Iowa again tried to string together a solid BTT performance after a rocky regular season; this year the journey ended in the semis.  They opened the tourney with a beatdown of Purdue, slipped by Sparty in the quarters, then got tripped up by Wisco in the semis.  On the bright side, though, their wins in the event helped them snag an at-large trip to the NCAA tournament.  This was a pretty fun team since Horner and Brunner had finally begun to blossom into high-level Big Ten players.

2006: MORE SUCCESS!  Iowa's second BTT triumph began with a 2-seed and a thumping of Minnesota in the quarters, followed by an ugly win over Sparty, and a solid win over Ohio State in the finals, which is also notable for featuring Alex Thompson's one and only highlight in an Iowa uniform (he sank a clutch 3 late in the game to ice the win).  This was a fun year and a really fun team (Horner, Brunner, Haluska, and Hansen were an easy bunch to root for); sadly, it all ended in tears and recriminations.

2007: The last BTT under the auspices of Coach Redacted was, in hindsight, a precursor of the misery to come in the next few years.  Iowa earned a 4-seed, but got utterly blitzed in the quarters by Purdue.  A few weeks later, Coach Redacted was getting fitted for Kool-Aid red blazers and Bloodpunch was beating down the doors for a new coach.

2008: The misery continues.  The Lickliter Era in the BTT begins with a thud and a 55-47 loss to Michigan.  Sadly, the pain was only just beginning.

2009: You thought 2008 was bad?  Hoo boy, you have no idea.  After earning an 8-seed in 2008, Iowa tumbled to a 10-seed this year and earned another date with Michigan.  It ended badly.  Very badly.  73-45 badly, to be precise.

2010: Another year, another low seed (9), another game with Michigan, and yet another loss (only 59-52 this time!).  The game was still notable for a few reasons, though.  One, it featured a career-best performance by Cully Payne (25 points on 5 three-pointers).  Two, it was the last stand of the Lickliter Era.  Given the terribly dispirited play on the court and the rumblings off-court, it was no surprise that Lickliter was handed his walking papers days later and Bloodpunch was, yet again, on the hunt for a new coach.

Remarkably, even with the recent misery in the tournament Iowa still has a 13-11 record in the event, good enough for a tie (with MSU) for 4th-best in its history.  Iowa's two titles is also tied for second-best (behind OSU's three titles).  But as I noted up above, it's been a pretty feast or famine experience here for Iowa.  In eight of the past thirteen events, Iowa was one-and-done,  In four of the other five events, they won at least two games, which is pretty damn good.  Hopefully Fran brings a little more feasting to the event going forward.  He certainly has a positive history in conference tournaments.

In case you're wondering what Iowa's record is against the other teams in the BTT:

* Illinois: 0-0
* Indiana: 2-0
* Michigan: 0-5
* Michigan State: 2-1
* Minnesota: 2-0
* Northwestern: 1-0
* Ohio State: 2-2
* Penn State: 1-0
* Purdue: 2-1
* Wisconsin: 1-2

Yes, they've never ever played Illinois in the event -- and their record against Michigan really is ghastly. 

Also, if you're looking for a glimmer of good news beyond Iowa's recent win over Purdue or their winning record against MSU in the event, you can take some solace in the fact that the 10-seed has, for whatever reason, has the 7th best winning percentage (.409), better than the 5-, 7-, 9- and 11-seeds.

TFJ to Black Shoe Diaries for providing a little inspiration for this post.

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