Excuse me while I take a moment to exhale. The roller coaster that is the 2016-17 Hawkeye basketball season continues, with the latest twist and turn being back-to-back blowout victories over Ohio State and Rutgers. Did I mention that both of those wins came without Peter Jok in the lineup? I won’t even entertain the tired “Oh yeah, well you beat a bad Rutgers team and a down Ohio State squad” discussion. For this young team, two wins in a row without your star is a big deal.
After the recent three game skid, I was really starting to worry about this team. They looked as though regression mode was in full effect. Their defense looked lazy and confused, much like it did in early December. The offense wasn’t exactly clicking either. It was during those games that I had to remind myself of my expectations coming in to the year. Like most fans, I hope for a win every game, but I also realize that with a young team in the B1G, there will be some bad losses along the way.
So now that the Hawks are riding high again, I spent a little time assessing where they stand in the regards to the big picture. Iowa is 5-5 in the B1G, and 13-10 overall. Not bad, not bad at all. If you are anything like me, you keep looking back at that terrible loss to UNO, as well as the double-OT loss to Nebraska and think about what could have been. 15-8 with 8 games to play would actually have the Hawks in decent position to make an NCAA run. Alas, the Hawks are what their record says they are, and I don’t own a time machine, so it looks like we will have to be ok with 13 wins and 10 losses.
I still believe that postseason play is very possible, if not probable, this season. Right now the Hawks are in the upper half of the conference, and if they can finish with 5-3 in their last 8, they should easily finish in the top 6 or 7 teams. That means 18 wins to 13 losses prior to the B1G tournament. I think that will already be good enough to get them a birth to the NIT. Would 2 wins in the conference tournament punch a ticket to the NCAA? I have no idea. I do know that Iowa’s RPI is awful, and barring a win at Wisconsin or Maryland, it is unlikely to improve too much. I also know the bubble looks like it will be very soft this year, so if ever a team with a so-so resume had a chance to get in, this might be that year.
To be clear, my expectations are not that Iowa makes the NCAA tournament. I also don’t expect them to finish 5-3. Clearly I am rooting for an 8-0 finish, but realistically, I still think 4-4 is the likely finish. This would give them a .500 record in conference, and in a rebuilding year, there is no shame in that. So as I continue to say, enjoy the ride this year. The lows can be expected, and the highs can provide quite the rush!