The Iowa Hawkeyes appear to have fully recovered the rough patch they hit with CJ Fredrick sidelined a few weeks ago. After dropping four of five games, Iowa has now won three straight. That includes their fifth and sixth wins over ranked opponents, the most of any team in the nation, as well as their first road wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin in the same season since 1988.
That success has no doubt led to a rebound in the the various rankings and projections as we enter the final few weeks of the regular season. The Hawkeyes have little hope for winning a Big Ten regular season championship, but have begun to climb higher on brackets as they set their sites on a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Here’s a look at how things stand entering the final five games of the regular season.
Iowa made progress a week ago after they took down #25 Rutgers and benefited from losses in front of them. This week, that trend continues as a pair of wins and more losses around them have propelled Iowa back to essentially where they were before CJ Fredrick got hurt in the advanced metrics. We’ll have to wait until early next week to see if that carries over to the national polls.
Here’s your weekly look at how things stand in the various rankings.
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.
There’s not much of a change to Iowa’s team sheet from a week ago. The road win over Michigan State moves Iowa to 4-1 against Q2 opponents while Thursday’s win over #21 Wisconsin is another Q1 win. That puts the Hawkeyes back to even at 5-5 against Q1 opponents on the season.
Penn State, Iowa’s opponent on Sunday has fallen out of Q1 territory, but are the only game currently on the schedule that won’t end up there. The Hawkeyes are likely to get their matchup with Nebraska rescheduled in the coming weeks as well. That one will end up in Q3 territory.
In the brackets, Iowa saw perhaps more benefit than even in the polls this week. While BracketMatrix has yet to update for Thursday night, the consensus had Iowa up to a 3 seed ahead of the win over Wisconsin. That, combined with a bad loss for 2 seed Houston will likely aid the Hawkeyes in the next update.
That’s exactly what we saw from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. After having Iowa as a 4 seed a week ago, he moved the Hawkeyes up to a 3 seed earlier in the week on the heels of the wins over Rutgers and Michigan State. On Friday, he jumped Iowa up to the 2 line in his latest bracket.
As we continue to note, the biggest key here is staying above the 4 line. Hawkeye fans came into this season with expectations of a deep NCAA Tournament run. The talent on this team is good enough, but catching a good draw is incredibly important.
The easiest path to a good draw is a higher seed. By landing on the 2 line, Iowa could ensure they avoid playing Gonzaga or Baylor until they hit the Elite Eight. Additionally, the same can be said for potential matchups with the top teams in the Big Ten given where they are projecting in the tournament.
A couple other observations this week:
- With Iowa up to the 2 line this week, Lunardi now has two 1 seeds out of the Big Ten (Michigan and Ohio State) and two 2 seeds (Iowa and Illinois). Safe to say the conference is pretty good.
- One of the best strategies appears to continue to be avoiding playing games altogether. Top teams are losing games every week and falling in rankings and seedings because of it. While others like Mighigan and Villanova early and now Baylor are avoiding some of their toughest scheduled matchups due to COVID-19 pauses. Oklahoma, meanwhile, had their matchup with Texas postponed because it was cold and snowy in Texas (note: I don’t want to minimize the hardship millions of Texans are feeling due to the handling of the situation, but as a native and fan of a team in the midwest, where it has been well below zero with nearly two feet of snow for the last week+, it is a bit frustrating to see the response).
With just a few games left on the schedule, Iowa is in a tough spot in terms of trying to win the Big Ten. We need Michigan to start losing games and with their first (and only) matchups against the other top teams in the conference finally hitting their schedule, that is a potential reality. But Hawkeye fans also need Ohio State and Illinois to start dropping games. It’s going to be difficult to gain too much ground with all those teams playing each other (eg gain ground on one team at the expense of another winning), but upsets from the likes of Minnesota, Nebraska and Michigan State could play a significant role in Iowa making a push for Big Ten Tournament seeding.
Outside the conference, Villanova and Alabama are now the two teams just ahead of Iowa in seeding per Lunardi. Going by BracketMatrix, you can add Virginia and Houston to that list. Villanova has a pretty soft remaining schedule, but St. John’s has been playing well and could pull off an upset, as could Creighton. Alabama has an equally soft remaining schedule, but Arkansas and Auburn both offer at least some hope of pulling one out. Houston, on the other hand, lost one already that they shouldn’t have, but they only have three games remaining as of today. Following the trend, Virginia has a weak remaining schedule, but if you feel like rooting for Duke they could help out the Hawkeyes.
We’ll dive into specific games to watch over the weekend that involve the above teams in our weekend watch guide.