The women’s basketball season has come to an end and that means it’s time to start getting ready for the Big Ten Tournament, which is set to start on March 1st! The Hawkeyes finished the Big Ten regular season at 8-8, which was good enough to get them a first round bye and the eight-seed. Obviously they’d have liked to win a few more of those close games (the losses to Michigan and Indiana on the road particularly stung) and they definitely want the loss on the road against Illinois back, but that’s in the past and we’re in the present, and they’ll have to focus on their upcoming opponent (and probable opponents if they keep winning). Luckily, I think they have a pretty good shot at taking a couple games in the tournament this year! Let’s take a look at the bracket and discuss.
Iowa’s first game is going to be on March 2nd against Northwestern. Like Iowa, the Wildcats also finished the Big Ten regular season at 8-8, although their overall record was a couple games better at 19-10. The reason to believe that Iowa has an advantage in this one is, well, they played in the regular season against each other!
And Iowa won!
By... a lot!
The Wildcats came to Iowa City in mid-February and were mollywhopped by the Hawkeyes by a final score of 78-59. Northwestern didn’t shoot particularly well in this one, finishing the game a dismal 31% from the field. It’s not likely they’d have that bad of a shooting night again, but I don’t think there’s a 19 point spread that would change how I feel about this game. Iowa performed better in just about every statistical category except for turnovers, where they had 14 to Northwestern’s nine. I think it’s safe to say that Iowa has a very good chance of taking advantage of the Wildcats again in the tournament.
If they advance...
If the Hawkeyes win, they’re slated to play Ohio State next. This is where I’m kind of relieved that Iowa didn’t win some of those close games, as they could’ve ended up on the other side of the bracket and drew the Terrapins if they’d finished seventh in the conference. Instead, they get to play the Buckeyes, a team they played closely in Columbus, and would avoid Maryland unless they both made it to the championship game. That’s fine by me!
Anyway, back to Ohio State. As previously mentioned, the Hawkeyes played the now-#9 Buckeyes very closely on the road, which is promising already. The Hawks entered the fourth quarter only down six and were even ahead halfway through the quarter, but were unable to close it out. On a neutral court, the Buckeyes lose whatever home court advantage they had, and I think Iowa will have a shot to beat Ohio State here. The Hawks benefited from great shooting by Ally Disterhoft, Megan Gustafson, and Makenzie Meyer in their first meeting and will likely need a repeat performance to take this one, but who’s to say it can’t happen? If they can cut down on turnovers, they’ll have a shot.
And if they take that one...
Well, who knows who might advance to the next round to play the Hawkeyes if they make it that far? The winner of Nebraska/Illinois likely won’t be making it past their next game against Purdue, which would mean Purdue or Indiana would likely make it to the semifinals on Iowa’s side of the bracket. The Hawkeyes played both teams once in February and lost both contests, which makes picking them difficult, especially in Indiana. They played Indiana closely all the way to 2OT, but Purdue throttled them in West Lafayette just a few days prior.
I suppose it’s probably getting ahead of ourselves to talk this far into the tournament anyway, but if, just if, Iowa can catch lightning in a bottle, they have a really good chance of making it to the semis and maybe even going to the championship. You’d have to assume that Maryland runs through their competition to get to the championship game, and Iowa did play Maryland well in their two contests even though they don’t have a win to show for it...
Maybe Iowa can win it all?
Hey, I’m not saying. I’m just saying.