The Iowa basketball team will be in the NCAA tournament this march, but will they have any chance to play in Des Moines in front of a home crowd?
To answer the question of whether or not the Iowa basketball team has a chance at playing in front of a home crowd in Des Moines is much more complicated than a yes or no. To try to put it simply, yes, they do have a chance, but looking at the big picture, it’s going to be pretty tough.
The NCAA tournament committee recently published its current top 16 teams to give an idea of where teams stand with just a few weeks left in regular season play. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Iowa basketball team was left off this list of 16 teams. There is, however, a solid chance they could end up in the top 16 teams come seasons end.
That being said, just getting into the top 16 does not guarantee the Hawks a chance at playing in Des Moines as the Des Moines Register so kindly pointed out.
Basically, this year’s top 16 teams is a perfect storm that would create a situation where a #3 or #4 seeded Iowa basketball team would have to travel over 1,000 miles despite technically getting regional preference due to their seed. Essentially, there are too many good teams in the same geographical area. In fact, of the top 16 teams, 6 would be considered midwest teams. However, there is only one (possibly two if you count Tulsa, Oklahoma) city that is hosting the NCAA tournament that is truly in the midwest, and that’s none other than Des Moines, Iowa.
So it’s a pretty big line of teams vying for this location.
There is still a chance that Iowa basketball fans can just travel two hours down I-80 to watch their beloved Hawks play though.
As it stands today, the Hawks would need to jump five of these six teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Marquette, Iowa State, and Wisconsin.
That’s a lot of teams, but Iowa does have a victory against Michigan and Iowa State, and they have another matchup with Wisconsin in the regular season.
So how can the Hawks make this gigantic leap?
First and foremost, the Iowa basketball team needs to win the majority of their remaining games, and they need to go far in the Big Ten tournament. A win over Wisconsin in the regular season and a win over Purdue and/or Michigan State in the tournament certainly would help things.
Second, it’s pretty simple, but these teams just need to lose. Fortunately, most of these teams have tough schedules or they play Iowa (e.g. Wisconsin) giving the Hawks a chance to jump them.
Here are the key games left for each team (plus any games they play in their conference tournaments):
Michigan State: @ #6 Michigan, vs #6 Michigan, @ Indiana
Michigan: vs #24 Maryland, @ #24 Maryland, vs #11 Michigan State, @ #11 Michigan State
Purdue: This is arguably the easiest schedule of the teams Iowa needs to jump. They have one tough game @ Indiana.
Marquette: #13 Villanova, vs Creighton
Wisconsin: vs #21 Iowa
Iowa State: @ #18 Kansas State, vs #15 Texas Tech
The other option is that the Iowa basketball team struggles down the stretch and ends up a #6 or #7 seed and gets conveniently matched up in Des Moines.
That being said, while playing near your school is advantageous, I would rather see the Hawks light it up down the stretch and let fate take the wheel. Finish strong, and if other teams lose and Iowa makes it to Des Moines, awesome. If not, they’ve got a great seed and one the best chance in the Fran McCaffery-era to go deep into the NCAA tournament.