IOWA CITY, Iowa — With three regular-season games remaining plus the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa’s men’s basketball team has some work to do to secure a spot in a postseason tourney.
With an RPI of 108, the Hawkeyes (15-13, 7-8 Big Ten) are outside consideration for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. But with road games against two of the league’s top three teams, Iowa could vault itself into the postseason conversation.
“I think you always think about it,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Friday morning. “We just focus on the next game. But the great thing about this league is there’s always opportunity. We’ve got three really tough games to finish the season. But it’s the way it is every year.
“What they are are opportunities for your team to position yourself better to play in the postseason. If you win them, it changes things. If you lose them, it changes things. So we just try to focus on the next game and if you win, then it improves your chances.
“You still have the conference tournament. If you win it, you’re in automatically. If you win a few games and then a few games in the tournament, that changes things.”
Iowa has participated in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and played five consecutive years in the postseason. The Hawkeyes sit alone in eighth place in the Big Ten standings. They play third-place Maryland (22-6, 10-5) on Saturday and then visit border rival Wisconsin (22-6, 11-4) next week. Iowa finishes Big Ten action at home against Penn State (14-14, 6-9).
Should Iowa earn upsets at Maryland and Wisconsin, coupled with an early-season split with league leader Purdue, the Hawkeyes could pick up postseason support. Should Iowa make a run in the Big Ten Tournament, that further would boost their postseason chances.
“Obviously, the first goal always is the NCAA Tournament,” McCaffery said. “If you have a chance to play in the NIT, we’ve clearly benefited from that. That is a fabulous tournament with really good teams. That would be tremendous as well. Our fans have responded well to our teams that have been young and had that opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to play in either one of them.”
McCaffery clearly is not a fan of postseason speculation in January, just when league races tip off. He’d prefer more discussion from national media outlets about the leagues.
“It’s just the definition of insanity to talk about NCAA Tournament in early January,” McCaffery said. “It’s just idiotic. They do it every year. It’s foolish. I don’t know why they feel compelled to do that. They should talk conference play and individual teams.
“As you get to this point in the season, now it makes sense to talk about it because now there’s a substantial body of work with which to evaluate. I don’t like the idea that ‘this team’s a lock, this team’s out. Next four in, first four out.’ I hate that crap. But I guess it’s just the world we live in.”