The Iowa Hawkeyes closed out the regular season with a gritty win over the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday afternoon. In doing so they secured the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament which kicks off this week. Iowa’s opponent, Wisconsin, had already locked in the 6th seed ahead of Sunday’s matchup. A loss for Iowa would have dropped them to 4th in the final Big Ten standings, but the Hawkeyes had already secured a double bye in the tournament thanks to Ohio State’s loss to Illinois on Saturday.
While Iowa locked in their seed earlier in the day, the full Big Ten Tournament bracket wasn’t set until things wrapped up Sunday evening with Penn State’s win over Maryland. That knocked the Terps into the 8th seed, bumping Rutgers up to 7th.
With the regular season officially a wrap, the conference released the full tournament bracket on Sunday evening.
As noted, the Hawkeyes finished with the 3rd seed, meaning they won’t be in action on either Wednesday or Thursday in the tournament’s first two rounds. Instead, Iowa’s first action will come on Friday evening.
However, we won’t know their opponent until Thursday. The 6th seeded Badgers will await the winner of the Nebaraska-Penn State game on Wednesday. The winner of that matchup with Wisconsin will advance to take on Iowa on Friday. We also won’t have an official start time. Iowa’s game is scheduled to tip off 25 minutes after the conclusion of the matchup between Illinois and the winner of Rutgers-Indiana. That game is set to tip off at 5:30pm CT so Iowa fans should expect the Hawkeyes to take the floor around 8pm Friday evening. That game and all tournament games through Friday will be broadcast on BTN. Saturday’s semifinal games and the championship on Sunday will be broadcast on CBS.
While Iowa won’t be in action until late Friday evening, the tournament will be well on its way by then. Things kick off with a pair of games on Wednesday evening as 13th seeded Minnesota takes on 12th seeded Northwestern at 5:30pm CT. That’s followed up by 14th seeded Nebraska and 11th seeded Penn State.
Action resumes on Thursday with a full day of games. Things get going bright and early at 10:30am CT with #9 Michigan State and #8 Maryland playing for NCAA Tournament implications. That’s followed up with 5th seeded Ohio State and the winner of Wednesday’s Minnesota-Norhwestern matchup. Then the action takes a pause before resuming at 5:30pm CT with 10th seeded Indiana and 7th seeded Rutgers. The early round action wraps up with 6th seeded Wisconsin against the winner of the Nebraska-Penn State game from Wednesday.
When Iowa finally takes the court on Friday, they’ll be looking to advance beyond the quarterfinals for the first time since winning the whole tournament in 2006. That was, of course, two coaches ago. Under head coach Fran McCaffery, Iowa is just 4-9 on the tournament.
But part of the issue historically has been the difficult path in front of the Hawkeyes. Iowa enters this year’s tournament with a double bye for the first time since 2007. The 3rd seed Iowa earned this year is the highest since the Hawkeyes were a 2 seed in 2006 when they went on to win the whole thing.
The path will again be difficult for the Hawkeyes this season. After suffering an ankle injury, the status of star SF Joe Wieskamp is up in the air. Iowa is already without 6th man Jack Nunge while SG CJ Fredrick remains hobbled by a lower leg injury that saw him exit Sunday’s win over Wisconsin before returning to score 6 points.
If Iowa hopes to repeat the magic of that 2006 season, they’ll likely have a pair of likely 1 seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament in their path. Before they worry about the likes of Illinois or Michigan, however, Iowa likely will be forced to face Wisconsin for a third time this year. Perhaps this time not at full strength.