Hawkeye Basketball: A first look at Iowa’s NCAA Tournament hopefuls

As we enter the second week of February, the home stretch of the 2021-22 college basketball season is at hand. With that comes the hope and anticipation of the NCAA Tournament. For the Iowa Hawkeyes, that comes with a lot more angst than in the recent past.

A season ago, Iowa was more worried about whether they could compete for a 1 seed than whether or not they would make the tournament. Now the Hawkeyes are without National Player of the Year Luka Garza and despite the emergence of another NPOY candidate in Keegan Murray, they’ve had a much more turbulent season.

Despite these ups and downs, the Hawkeyes find themselves with a month to go until the end of the regular season in a solid position to enter the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. Iowa is likely to go wire to wire without being ranked in the AP’s top 25 for the first time in four years and only the third time in nine years. They don’t have a marquee victory. But they don’t have any real wrong loss on their CV.

That’s why the Hawkeyes find themselves thrown pretty firmly into the 68 field. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Iowa seeded 7 heading into the weekend and a double-digit win over Minnesota won’t change that. probably not that this week. Currently, Lunardi has Iowa taking on 10th seed Colorado State in San Diego in the first round with a matchup against 2nd seed Arizona in the Round of 16.

Image via ESPN.com

However, Lunardi isn’t the only one to pitch Iowa as in. According to Bracket Matrix, the Hawkeyes are a consensus 8 seed, with each contributing Bracketologist throwing Iowa on the field. Number Fire is the highest in Iowa, throwing them as a 5 seed last week while Daily Bracketologist is the lowest as a 12 seed.

Key indicators

So Why is Iowa thrown firmly into the bracket and not on the bubble as so many Hawkeye fans have lamented? Simply because they have been the darlings of all metrics all season. With eight games remaining on the regular season schedule (and potentially nine if the trip to OSU is indeed postponed), Iowa is in the top 25 in virtually every modern computer model. The exception here, as usual, is the RPI. But even that antiquated metric puts Iowa firmly in the 68 range.

Here’s a look at how the Hawkeyes are doing as we enter the second week of February.

KenPom: 21
Sagarine: 21
RPI: 43

The latter is the one that really matters. While KenPom is predictive and incredibly interesting to dissect, it’s the NET NCAA rankings that really drive the car when it comes to making the NCAA tournament and determining the standings.

Here’s a look at Iowa’s resume to date.

Image via WarrenNolan.com

Some notable team sheet takeaways here. To begin with, there are no red boxes on the right half of the sheet. Which is to say, despite the frustration of the tight losses at Rutgers and Penn State as fans, they’re not really “bad losses” in the eyes of the NCAA.

But just as there are no bad losses, the left side of the sheet is particularly light on games without a red box. Iowa currently has only one quadrant a win – the neutral site game over Utah State. This one is just 7 NET spots away from a Q2 win, which would be a concern for the Hawkeyes.

And after

The remaining eight games already on the schedule give the Hawkeyes a great mix of games they should win, which could stack up to help bolster the overall record, and challenging games capable of giving Iowa that coveted signature win. for the year. This week, Iowa travels to Maryland looking for a quad two win over the Terrapins before heading home for a quad four game with the struggling Nebraska Cornhuskers. Both a critical win for Iowa to maintain current projections.

Next week things pick up a bit with a pair of home games against Michigan Schools. First it’s a Q2 opportunity against the Wolverines, followed by a chance to win against the #13 Michigan State Spartans.

In total, Iowa still has three quad one games, three quad two games, and a pair of quad four games against Nebraska. If the Ohio State game is rescheduled, that would be four quad-one opportunities in the final nine games of the season. If the Hawkeyes can just avoid a loss to Nebraska and rack up a few more wins against their other opponents, they’ll enter the Big Ten tournament looking to play for seeding rather than a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

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