The Iowa basketball team is coming off a huge win against Michigan. Will they be able to ride this momentum and finish the season strong?
The Iowa basketball team is currently sitting at 17-5 overall and 6-5 in Big Ten play. After knocking down #7 Michigan Friday, where can they go from here? Will they be able to ride the euphoria of that victory for the rest of the season and finish the Big Ten regular season play strong or will they limp to the end like we have seen a few Fran McCaffery-led teams do in the past?
According to KenPom, the Hawks are projected to finish 22-9, going 5-4 over their next nine contests. All four projected losses are on the road against Indiana, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin whereas the five wins are projected to come against Northwestern, Rutgers (twice), #24 Maryland, and Indiana (at Carver). A finish like this would leave the Hawks at 11-9 in the conference and likely hovering around the top-25, but probably not in it. Moreover, a 22-9 finish would put the Hawks likely in the conversation for a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That being said, KenPom isn’t the end-all-be-all of projections. It’s all analytics and while it can be a pretty darn accurate representation of the college basketball landscape, it doesn’t take into account injuries into the equation. This severely impacts the expected outcome of two (and potentially three) games left on Iowa’s schedule. First, tomorrow evening when the Iowa basketball team heads to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Hoosiers, they will be facing a Hoosier squad that will likely be playing without their second-leading scorer Juwan Morgan. That’s a huge advantage for the Hawks.
Update: Morgan is back at practice and expected to play tomorrow.
Furthermore, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who have struggled mightily down the stretch are playing the rest of the season without one of their top players, forward Isaac Copeland. That’s huge for the Hawks when they take on Nebraska in the regular season finale.
When I look at the rest of Iowa’s schedule, I reasonably see two losses on it. First, playing at Ohio State and second, heading to the Kohls Center in Madison, Wisconsin to face a strong Badger basketball team.
Ohio State’s Value City Arena isn’t exactly a haven for home court advantage, but it’s on the road nonetheless against a likely NCAA tournament team. That doesn’t bode well for a Hawks team that typically struggles away from Carver. The Kohls Center, on the other hand, is tough for any team to play at, so color me surprised if Iowa manages to steal a win there.
With just two losses in the last nine games, that would put the Iowa basketball team at 24-7 heading into the Big Ten tournament, which would be the best regular season finish of Fran McCaffery’s career at Iowa and would likely align the Hawks with a 5 seed (or potentially even a 4).
Buckle up Hawkeye nation, it’s about to be a fun ride to close out the regular season.