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A brief history of Iowa (and other teams) on Super Bowl Sunday

The Hawkeyes will be playing their fifth game in nine seasons ahead of the Super Bowl

NFL: Super Bowl LV-City Views Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The #8 Iowa Hawkeyes are facing Indiana tomorrow in a rematch of an 81-69 IU victory from a couple weeks ago. If you’re looking for a preview/venty column, you can find it here. In this space, we have a weird idiosyncrasy to analyze at this late-ish hour: college basketball on Super Bowl Sunday.

When the Big Ten basketball schedule came out, I was immediately drawn to many things but one which caught my eye and was stored away into a lockbox was the game ahead of the Super Bowl. Iowa played Illinois last year before the big game so it felt weird for them to play another game on the arguably the biggest sports day of the calendar with little regard to college basketball.

In diving into KenPom’s Fan Match ($) database, I learned it is actually the fifth time Iowa has played on the same day as the Super Bowl since Fran McCaffery took over in 2010, or 11 seasons. Here are the prior results:

  • 2020: @ Iowa 72, Illinois 65
  • 2017: @ Iowa 81, Nebraska 70
  • 2016: Iowa 77, @ Illinois 65
  • 2013: @ Minnesota 62, Iowa 59

3-1! Not bad.

Anyways, how does this stack up to the rest of the conference and college basketball, for that matter? (games scheduled for this year are included for the count but not factored into record)

  • 7 games: Niagara (4-3), Marist (2-4)
  • 6 games: Rider (4-2), Saint Peter’s (1-4)
  • 5 games: Canisius (4-1), Iowa (3-1), Villanova (2-2), Quinnipiac (1-3), Illinois (0-5), South Florida (0-5)
  • 4 games: 8 teams including Wisconsin (3-1), Minnesota (2-2), Michigan (1-3)
  • 3 games: 16 teams including Michigan State (2-1), Indiana (1-1)
  • 2 games: 31 teams including Ohio State (2-0), Purdue (1-1), Penn State (1-1), Nebraska (0-2)
  • 1 game: 27 teams including Northwestern (1-0), Maryland (1-0), Rutgers in the Big East (0-1)

For those counting, that’s 19 games in 11 years for the Big Ten conference and Iowa/Illinois have combined for eight of them. It’s even more stark when looking at 2013 onward, as the Hawks will have played 5, Illinois 4, and then everyone else below that.

Tomorrow’s game has a Thrill Score of 80.8*, which is the highest on Super Bowl Sunday since 2011 according to KenPom. A hat on a hat stat is that Iowa has taken part in 4 of the top 10 Thrilling games ($) this season.

*Thrill score is calculated before the game, as it is intended to show what are likely to be the most enjoyable games on a given day

Ultimately, it is more interesting nugget I found and wanted to share in a post than an advantage in either direction. I’ll leave you with a graph for the number of games played each year. Because of COVID-19 schedules, tomorrow will be the Super Bowl Sunday with the most games played by the wide margin of 8.

KenPom Fan Match