Scott Dochterman/Land of 10
Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery answers questions after an NIT game in 2017.

What Iowa basketball must do to reach the NIT

We are tackling the best question supplied by Iowa fans each day. If you’d like to submit a question, tweet to Scott Dochterman here. Look for our Iowa Question of the Day every Monday through Friday. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

ANSWER: Iowa faces a difficult climb to the NIT based on its current trajectory. The Hawkeyes are 12-12 overall and 3-8 in Big Ten play. With this team’s inconsistency and its defensive issues, projecting beyond the next game is probably unrealistic.

When Iowa barely missed the NCAA Tournament last year, the team was 18-14 at the end of the regular season, 10-8 in the Big Ten and had an RPI of 81. It’s improbable for this team to reach those numbers.

Perhaps the best barometer for whether the Hawkeyes can earn an NIT trip is what happened in 2011-12. Iowa ended that regular season with a 16-15 overall record and was 8-10 in Big Ten action. The Hawkeyes had an RPI of 130 and were 4-4 against top-25 teams and 7-12 against top-100 squads. Somehow, Iowa claimed the final NIT at-large spot when an appearance seemed unlikely.

As of Wednesday morning, the Hawkeyes’ RPI is 139 and the team is 0-4 against top-25 teams and 1-8 against the top-100. With seven regular-season games remaining, Iowa probably needs to win five just to enter the outskirts of the conversation. The Hawkeyes also need to pick off a team or two in the Big Ten Tournament to put themselves on the NIT bubble.

Of Iowa’s remaining opponents, three are ranked in the Associated Press top 25 — Michigan State (5), Ohio State (17) and Michigan (24). Only Ohio State (22) is in the top 25 for RPI right now. Of the other four opponents — Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern — only the Wildcats (98) have an RPI inside of 100.

To be semi-realistic, Iowa needs at least one top-25 upset and four regular-season wins against comparable foes just to have a shot. Then entering the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes need to win at least one game, something they haven’t done since 2013.

So it’s a tall order to reach the NIT but not impossible.

Read more Question of the Day answers about the Iowa Hawkeyes here.