Iowa knocked off Nebraska today, to finish their regular season with a Big Ten record of 9-9. A five hundred record in the Big Ten, especially in such a strong year, usually should get a team an NCAA Tournament bid. But not for Iowa. The Hawkeyes still have work to do if they want a March Madness bid.
Iowa’s resume is just not strong enough right now to merit a bid. It comes down to the fact that Iowa had a weak non-conference slate, a poor record against good teams and away from home and a low RPI and strength of schedule.
Iowa’s non-conference schedule was weak this season, beating just Iowa State, a higher bubble team than themselves. Not scheduling any big challenges certainly appears to be coming back to bite Iowa.
Iowa didn’t beat any good teams in their non-conference schedule because they did not play any. But when they did get opportunities to take on the big boys, Iowa failed. The Hawkeyes have a record of just 1-6 against top 25 teams and 4-8 against top 100 teams. They have had plenty of opportunities to grab a signature win, yet Iowa has not been able to do so. Of their nine conference victories, only one, against Wisconsin, was over a team with a winning record.
On top of the lack of big wins is the lack of road wins. Iowa has won on the road just twice all year. Even those wins were at Northwestern and Penn State, two teams with a combined six conference wins.
All of these shortcomings culminate in just the 76th best RPI, and the 96th best strength of schedule.
So, that leaves Iowa with just one opportunity remaining. They have to win the Big Ten tournament if they want to make it to March Madness. Iowa just is not going to get an at-large bid, and will have to claim the Big Ten’s automatic bid, a tall order. To do so Iowa would have to both beat good teams, and win away from home. Those are two things Iowa is not so good at.
Their road to a Big Ten championship will start with a third matchup with lowly Northwestern Thursday night at the United Center. It would be an enormous uphill battle for Iowa to even get to the title game next Sunday and give themselves a shot at a bid. But that is the situation the Hawkeyes have put themselves in: a must win conference tournament.