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Iowa Basketball NCAA Tournament Rooting Interests: Saturday, March 7

It’s a busy Saturday of college hoops - here’s who to keep tabs on to improve Iowa’s standing

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

With the NCAA Tournament quickly approaching, the Iowa Hawkeyes are in the enviable position of not worrying about the bubble. Instead, Iowa is firmly on the right side of the bubble and simply playing for seeding at this point. As the days tick off of the calendar, we’ll be providing daily updates on games around the country which impact Iowa’s seeding for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament with some guidance on who to root for and against.

With the Big Ten stagnant last night, JP had identified two games tangential to Iowa’s tournament resume. Both Akron and Richmond came away with the wins and further solidified resumes of teams Iowa was competing for seeding with: West Virginia for Akron; Auburn and Wisconsin for Richmond.

There’s a ton going on this weekend, which is why I’m breaking down the prime matchups into the two tournaments:

Big Ten Tournament Rooting Interests

For Iowa’s Big Ten hopes, it’s pretty easy: a win gets them the double bye. Simple. Fantastic. A loss tomorrow makes it much more difficult to peg in terms of Iowa’s conference tournament seeding.

A win for each of Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Rutgers settles the Big Ten standings ahead of Iowa’s finale with 8 teams at 11-9 or better. An Iowa loss in such a scenario would put them into a 3-way tie for 7th place with Michigan and Rutgers and have them seeded 8th in the Big Ten Tournament.

With no locked seeds in the conference tournament out of 128 possibilities (okay, Minnesota is locked into the 12 seed), it’s nearly impossible to identify the preferred matchup/path for Iowa with a win or a loss (i.e. Iowa plays Rutgers in the 8/9 matchup and 7/10 matchup in some instances). So let’s keep the goal simple: stay off of the 8-line. Two teams listed above play today

Matchup: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (19-11, 10-9) at Purdue Boilermakers (16-14, 9-10)
Tip: 1:00p CT
Rooting for: Purdue

There’s limited NCAA seeding impact with this game, as both slot well below Iowa’s 6-line (if they get in).

Matchup: Penn State Nittany Lions (21-9, 11-8) at Northwestern Wildcats (7-22, 2-17)
Tip: 3:00p CT
Rooting for: Northwestern

The chance of this one coming to fruition is pretty low (KenPom gives jNW 25% chance in this one), but still worth noting. It would further impact Penn State as Bracket Matrix has them as a 5 seed ahead of Iowa and a loss to the Wildcats would give PSU their first Q3 loss at the worst possible time.

NCAA Tournament Rooting Interests

The focus here is on teams near Iowa’s current 6 seed according to the aforementioned Bracket Matrix. Their current projection is noted in parentheses ahead of their record.

Matchup: Wisconsin Badgers (5, 20-10) at Indiana Hoosiers (9, 19-11)
Tip Time: 11:00a CT
Rooting For: Indiana

Fuck Wisconsin.

Matchup: Auburn Tigers (5, 24-6) at Tennessee Volunteers (OUT, 17-13)
Tip Time: 11:00a CT
Rooting For: Tennessee

A couple brackets have the Volunteers in but a loss here would go a long way to weakening Auburn’s resume ahead of Iowa’s.

Matchup: Kentucky Wildcats (4, 24-6) at Florida Gators (9, 19-11)
Tip Time: 12:00p CT
Rooting For: ???

This is a tricky one since Iowa is once getting pinched by this matchup. However, both teams advanced analytics resumes are much more in line with their current seeding & win/loss differential. KenPom has both teams below Iowa (24) at 29 & 32 while the NET has them both above the Hawks (34) at 16 and 28. So we’re rooting for Kentucky here to beat the Gators, solidify their seed line above the Hawks but limit Iowa’s floor.

Matchup: Baylor (1, 26-3) at West Virginia Mountaineers (7, 20-10)
Tip Time: 12:00p CT
Rooting For: Baylor

A win over a top ranked team for WVU is likely to jump them ahead of the Hawkeyes.

Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (6, 21-9) at Utah Utes (OUT, 15-14)
Tip Time: 1:30p CT
TV: Pac 12 Network
Rooting For: Utah

Easy one: Utah is bad. Colorado is in line with Iowa. A Buffs’ loss is a tuff way for them to end their regular season.

Matchup: Louisville Cardinals (4, 24-6) at Virginia Cavaliers (7, 22-7)
Tip Time: 4:00p CT
Rooting For: Louisville

Virginia is on an absolute tear right now and a win against Louisville would give them eight straight to finish the regular season. Unfortunately for them, 8 straight ACC wins isn’t what it used to be but a win here would give them a shot at a 4-way tie for first place in the conference. Narratively, it’s difficult to imagine the defending national champions and a top 4 ACC team on an 8-game heater being seeded below Iowa so we’re rooting for Louisville here even though it may limit Iowa’s upward mobility.

Matchup: Butler Bulldogs (5, 21-9) at Xavier Musketmen (10, 19-11)
Tip Time: 7:30p CT
Rooting For: Xavier

With the Musketmen a few lines clear of Iowa, we’re cheering for them to take down Butler tonight. A loss would tie the two at 9-9 in conference. Though Butler’s NET is well above Iowa’s at 17 and Xavier could vault ahead of Iowa from their 40-spot, a loss could weaken Butler’s KenPom & Sagarin rankings which are both jussst ahead of Iowa’s.

Matchup: Washington Huskies (OUT, 14-16) at Arizona Wildcats (7, 20-10)
Tip Time: 9:00p CT
Rooting For: Washington

With no chance of getting into the dance outside of a Pac-12 tournament run, the best Washington can hope to do is play spoiler. A win at Arizona would help Iowa solidify their 6-line.

And that’s it for a busy Saturday in college hoops! We’ll have more tomorrow and next week as we gear up for Selection Sunday!