Well, at least there's no suspense as to whether Iowa gets to play any of its NCAA Tournament games in Des Moines; that chance has long since walked out the door. For the third straight season, Iowa lost a Thursday Big Ten Tournament game, getting bounced by a weak, weak Illinois team, 68-66.
Iowa found itself down early and often, with Illinois opening up 11-point leads in both halves. Fifteen consecutive points by Peter Jok got Iowa back into the game before the break, but when Jok fouled out on a hilariously lopsided double-technical (Kendrick Nunn pushed Jok in the throat with his forearm under the basket after a made shot, and Jok responded by lightly pushing Nunn away), Iowa was down nine with four minutes left and floundering.
Nicholas Baer, who had spent most of the game looking like an undersized walk-on playing his first season of college ball, sparked a quick comeback, and Iowa erased a 66-55 deficit in under two minutes of play. Unfortunately, Iowa's offense was a shambles from thereon, and one Illinois jumper with a minute left was all the Illini needed to sew up the victory.
At one point in the game, Jok and Jarrod Uthoff had accounted for 47 of Iowa's 52 points scored, and the two ended up combining for 50 of Iowa's 66. Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons—who you'd think would be the senior backcourt leaders all teams need when the calendar tells us This Is March™—had particularly rough afternoons; they combined to go just 1-for-13 from the field for three points, with seven turnovers, and Gesell continues to struggle in crunch-time situations.
Illinois finished the game 10-for-23 from downtown, and combined with Iowa's 18 turnovers, that was enough success on the margins for the Illini to keep Iowa pushed away. And give the Illini credit: their 40 minutes of solid play was better than Iowa's 20. Sometimes it's just that simple.
Anyway, we all watched the game. And if you didn't, don't; your mental health will thank you. Let's all commiserate.