One day before the eight-year anniversary of their last appearance in the Big Dance, the Iowa Hawkeyes have finally broken their NCAA Tournament drought...kind of. The Hawkeyes have been put in a play-in game against Tennessee, and will play in Dayton on Wednesday night. The winner of that game will get No. 6 seed UMass in Raleigh, N.C.
UPDATE: Iowa plays Tennessee at roughly 8:10 PM CT on TruTV on Wednesday. If they win, they'll play UMass at roughly 1:45 PM CT on CBS on Friday.
The Hawkeyes, once in consideration for a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, have struggled down the stretch. Iowa lost six of its last seven games, including a first-round Big Ten Tournament loss to lowly Northwestern. The team certainly does not lack for talent, though, and a ticket to the Dance is better than none. We'll hope that a week off and a respite from Big Ten competition will rejuvenate the team and give them a chance to advance.
Tennessee went 21-12 this season and 11-7 in the SEC. The Vols won five in a row down the stretch before falling to Florida in the conference tournament. Tennessee is a Kenpom favorite, ranked No. 13 due in large part to stifling defense. Senior forward Jordan McRae averages almost 19 points per game. The Vols are an extremely good rebounding team -- forward Jarnell Stokes is one of the nation's best individual rebounders, averaging 10.3 per game -- setting up a strength-vs.-strength matchup on the glass. The good news: They're a poor perimeter shooting team, so they might not be able to exploit Iowa's weakness as well as some other potential opponents.
Iowa is among six Big Ten teams to get into the NCAA Tournament field. Conference regular-season champ Michigan is a No. 2 seed in the Midwest, while tournament champion Michigan State is a No. 4 in the East. Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska are also in the field of 68. Minnesota fell short.