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Iowa Basketball Bracketology: Slumping Hawkeyes Slide

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Lose four of five games, slide in the polls and brackets.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa
Have Fran and the Hawkeyes finally turned the corner?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes have been struggling for weeks in the absence of CJ Fredrick. That came to an end, at least in part, on Wednesday night as Fredrick returned for a close to full workload and Iowa came away with a double-digit win over #25 Rutgers. That was Iowa’s fifth win over a ranked team this season, the most of any team in the nation.

But now the question is whether that win is enough to propel the Hawkeyes out of the funk they’ve been in for weeks, losing four of five games going into Wednesday’s win. those struggles have hurt Iowa mightily in the polls and the minds of bracketologists each of the last two weeks.

With only a handful of games left this season to make an impression, Iowa has work to do to maximize their chances for the deep NCAA Tournament run we all expected them to make coming in to the season.

Current Rankings

After a slow drop at the outset of Iowa’s slide, thanks in part to several losses from teams close behind them in the national rankings, the Hawkeyes fell off the proverbial cliff this week in the polls. However, that slide was mitigated some in the more advanced metrics.

Here’s your weekly look at how things stand in the various rankings.

KenPom: 5
Sagarin: 5
AP: 15
NET: 8
RPI: 59

Nitty Gritty

For those unfamiliar, the nitty gritty report is one of the components utilized by the selection committee come Selection Sunday. It provides an in depth breakdown of a team’s resume according to the NCAA’s NET rankings. Here’s a look at Iowa’s nitty gritty report as presented by WarrenNolan.com.

Image via WarrenNolan.com

Despite all the fuss over the last several games which led to a substantial fall in the AP and Coaches Polls, Iowa remains inside the top-10 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. That’s due in part to the fact most of these losses have come to Q1 teams with the lone exception being the home loss to Indiana that kicked this all off.

However, Purdue, Rutgers and Minnesota continue to play well enough to be firmly in the Q1 category on the road and just inside for home matchups. That puts Iowa’s record against Q1 opponents at 4-5. While the five losses are not ideal, the four wins certainly help when comparing against other top teams. Houston, for example, has only played 2 Q1 games all season.

With six games left on the schedule, Iowa is slated to play 5 more Q1 games (Penn State is hanging on by the slimmest of margins) with this weekend’s trip to Michigan State a Q2 game.

Latest Bracketology

As with the polls, Iowa has taken a tumble in the seeding for virtually all brackets. After being a 1 seed on Bracket Matrix just a few short weeks ago, Iowa has fallen to a consensus 3 seed. Some “experts” have them as low as a 5 seed while others have them as high as a 2.

As for everyone’s... uh... favorite (?) bracketologist, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Iowa as a 4 seed in his latest bracket with no change after taking down #25 Rutgers on Wednesday.

Image via ESPN

Perhaps the most frustrating, disappointing and important thing to note from the above is what exactly a 4 seed would mean for Iowa. Hawkeye fans came into this season with a Sweet 16 appearance as the floor. We were expecting to challenge for the Big Ten title and likely the Final Four.

After losing four games in five tries, Iowa now finds themselves in the precarious position of needing to beat a 1 seed in order to advance past the Sweet 16. In Lunardi’s bracket in particular, that would mean a rematch with Gonzaga. Not ideal.

Beyond Gonzaga, however, the risk of catching Baylor early or even a team like Ohio State or Michigan is not what we had hoped for. Sure Iowa could take down OSU or Michigan on a neutral floor. Especially if CJ Fredrick is healthy again. But the best opportunity for a deep run is avoiding the truly good to great teams in college basketball until your tournament run is already in full stride.

To accomplish that, Iowa needs to find a way to fight through these final six games and emerge as a 3 seed or higher.

A couple other observations this week:

  • Michigan continues to not be punished for taking a voluntary pause. They’ve been planted on the 1 line and still sit atop the Big Ten standings. Will they actually try to finish their full schedule? If not, what happens to those two things?
  • The Big Ten is so damn good. OSU and Michigan are both slotted as 1 seeds and coming into the year nobody would have picked them as the top two teams in the conference. In total there are 9 Big Ten teams in Lunardi’s bracket with two 1 seeds, a 2 seed (Illinois), two 4 seeds (Iowa and Wisconsin), two 6 seeds (Rutgers and Purdue) a 9 (Minnesota) and a 10 (Indiana). Crazy.
  • Despite an embarrassing loss, Drake remains in as an 11 seed and we’re all rooting for them to win every game until they play Iowa in the title.

Rooting Interests

First and foremost, go Hawks. Seriously. Get going. Nothing is going to help like winning. That starts at Michigan State on Saturday.

From there, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan can all lose out. They’re in front of Iowa on the brackets and in the standings. Take some Ls. As for Michigan State, after they take their L this weekend, they need to get on a heater. At 86 in the NET, MSU has a shot to get above 75 which would put the home win over the Spartans back up to Q2 and a potential win in East Lansing this weekend into Q1. Indiana and Minnesota are both also within striking distance of Q1, which would help Iowa’s resume.

Beyond the Big Ten, the list of teams in front of Iowa has grown and so the teams we’re rooting against has grown. Houston, Alabama, Villanova, Virginia, Tennessee (seriously), Texas, Missouri, West Virginia and Texas Tech are all sitting on the 4 line or above in the consensus bracket and their losses are Hawkeye wins.

We’ll dive into specific games to watch over the weekend that involve the above teams in our weekend watch guide.