IOWA CITY, Iowa — In the end, Iowa’s Big Ten Tournament thumping left the NCAA Tournament selection committee with a negative and lasting impression of the Hawkeyes.
Buoyed by a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, Iowa (18-14) had a chance to secure a fourth straight NCAA tourney bid with a solid performance at the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, Indiana plastered the Hawkeyes 95-73 last Thursday in Iowa’s Big Ten opener. It dulled any possible momentum Iowa had with committee members and will send the Hawkeyes to a top seed and a home game in the NIT.
Iowa was one of the first four out of the NCAA Tournament; the #Hawkeyes will earn a No. 1 seed and a home game in the NIT.
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 12, 2017
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm had Iowa on his “First Four Out” list shortly before the tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi did not list Iowa among his “Last Four In” or “First Out” on Sunday afternoon. Both were proven right.
The strength of Iowa’s victories failed to sway the NCAA Tournament committee. The Hawkeyes notched five top-50 victories. They beat tournament champions from the Big 12 (Iowa State), Big Sky (North Dakota) and Big Ten (Michigan). Iowa also defeated the top three regular-season teams in the league (Purdue, Wisconsin and Maryland). But a low 81 RPI was too much for the Hawkeyes to overcome.
This was a season Iowa did not expect to finish in the NCAA tournament. After graduating 392 starts from last year’s squad, which finished No. 25 in the final poll, Iowa rebuilt this year with five freshmen playing key roles. The Hawkeyes sat at 3-5 after a 98-89 loss to Omaha on Dec. 3. Iowa allowed opponents to score 85 points a game and shoot 46.4 percent from the floor through eight games.
But the Hawkeyes improved gradually. They won their last five non-conference games. They beat eventual NCAA tournament qualifiers Iowa State and North Dakota, as well as in-state foe Northern Iowa.
In Big Ten play, Iowa was inconsistent. Twice the Hawkeyes endured three-game losing streaks. But both times Iowa answered with winning streaks of their own, including a four-game streak to end the regular season. Iowa lost a pair of double-overtime road games but also won a pair of overtime games.
Overall, it will mark the Hawkeyes’ eighth appearance in the NIT and third trip in the last six years. Iowa owns a 9-7 record in the NIT. In 2013, the Hawkeyes competed in the NIT finals, falling to Baylor.