IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Big Ten Tournament is here and no team has more at stake than Iowa.
The Hawkeyes’ NCAA Tournament ticket will be punched or rejected based on what happens in Washington this week. Iowa is on the bubble, just outside of the tournament, according to ESPN Bracketology. That’s the general consensus among bracketologists, but the Hawkeyes can play their way into the 68-team field.
The Hawkeyes find themselves on the bubble thanks to a four-game winning streak, which includes two Top 25 road wins at Maryland and Wisconsin.
Iowa is coming into the league tournament as hot as anyone in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes will need it to continue if they’re to bust a move into the big dance.
The matchups shouldn’t scare No. 7 seed Iowa, but that’s no guarantee for success. The Hawkeyes open against No. 10 seed Indiana. They outlasted the Hoosiers 96-90 in overtime on Feb. 24, thanks to 22 free throws from guard Peter Jok.
Iowa also beat No. 2 seed Wisconsin, a potential quarterfinal opponent, on March 2. Iowa could face No. 3 Maryland in the semifinals. The Hawkeyes beat the Terrapins on Feb. 25.
The Hawkeyes are in a unique situation. They are confident, coaches don’t want to face them, yet they’ll be underdogs in most tournament games.
Mark Turgeon on Iowa: "They've been the best team in our league" the last few weeks. "They're on a roll. … Fran's done an amazing job."
— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) March 6, 2017
They could become a trendy sleeper pick, but a deep tournament run won’t be easy.
For Iowa, the Big Ten Tournament is all about getting into the NCAA Tournament. Winning the league tournament will take care of that, but all the Hawkeyes probably need are two wins and a trip to the semifinals to lock up an at-large berth.
Indiana’s record says the Hawkeyes have a good shot in their opener. The Hoosiers are 17-14 and 7-11 in league play.
Indiana started the season with wins over potential No. 1 seeds Kansas and North Carolina, but things quickly fell apart, especially on the defensive end, and the Hoosiers could never regain their November form.
The roster is loaded with talent, led by guard James Blackmon Jr. (17.0 points, 4.6 rebounds), guard Robert Johnson (13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists) and center Thomas Bryant (12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds).
Don’t be surprised if this is a high-scoring game and close late, just like the first matchup between these teams.
Player to watch
Jok is the best player on the team and a lot is made of the freshmen, including guard Jordan Bohannon and forwards Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl.
But redshirt sophomore forward Nicholas Baer is as vital to the team’s recent success as any player. He is averaging 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in his last four games, shooting 60.6 percent overall and 68.4 percent from the 3-point line.
Baer, the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, is a high-energy player with a strong basketball IQ. Coaches praise him for his ability to consistency make the right play. He’s capable of being a role player or stepping into the spotlight, like when he scored 20 points against Penn State on Sunday.
Nicholas Baer joins MSU's Draymond Green as the only B1G players the last 20 years with 235 pts, 45 steals, 40 3-ptrs, 35 blocks in a season
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 6, 2017
Iowa is 18-13 and went 10-8 in Big Ten play.
- F #0 Ahmad Wagner (4.8 points, 3.3 rebounds)
- G #1 Maishe Dailey (2.5 points, 1.7 rebounds)
- G #2 Jordan Bohannon (9.8 points, 4.8 assists)
- G #4 Isaiah Moss (6.2 points, 1.5 rebounds)
- F #5 Tyler Cook (12.0 points, 5.1 rebounds)
- G #10 Christian Williams (2.6 points, 1.7 assists)
- F #11 Charlie Rose (0.3 points, 0.1 rebounds)
- G #14 Peter Jok (20.2 points, 5.7 rebounds)
- F #15 Ryan Kriener (3.3 points, 2.3 rebounds)
- F #20 Riley Till redshirting
- F #23 Dale Jones (0.6 points, 0.8 rebounds)
- G #24 Brady Ellingson (4.8 points, 1.2 rebounds)
- F #25 Dom Uhl (3.8 points, 3.4 rebounds)
- F #35 Cordell Pemsl (9.0 points, 4.7 rebounds)
- F #51 Nicholas Baer (7.6 points, 6.0 assists)
Jok isn’t just fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s also trying to break the Big Ten single-season free-throw percentage mark. Indiana’s Steve Alford set the record of .921 in 1984-85. Jok is shooting .920 from the foul line.