Hawkeyes NCAA Tournament hopes in peril after Big Ten Tournament exit

Ohio State v Iowa
Ohio State v Iowa / David Berding/GettyImages

The Iowa Hawkeyes once promising race to a NCAA Tournament bid has come to a screeching halt. A surging Ohio State Buckeyes team with a particularly stiff defense was too much for Iowa, handing the black & Gold a 89-75 loss.

While the Hawkeyes kept pace for much of the game, the Buckeyes began to peel away in the second half thanks to their size on defense and lethal three-point shooting. Ohio State out-rebounded Iowa 40 to 32 and shot 55% from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes only managed 35% from deep.

It became apparent through the Hawkeyes' most recent losses that their inconsistent defense would be their undoing without pinpoint precision from beyond the arc and capitalizing in transition. The same failings against Illinois were present against the Buckeyes in Minneapolis.

Buckeyes senior Jamison Battle was shut out in the first half but returned in the second half to drop all 23 of his points. He was a perfect 9-9 from the charity stripe and added eight rebounds.

The Hawkeyes closed the gap plenty of times but only managed to get with three after the Buckeyes created their first major lead within the first five minutes. Iowa's best opportunities to overtake the game largely came when Payton Sandfort was hitting difficult threes. But once he hit a cold streak and the slack wasn't compensated, the writing was on the wall.

Sandfort finished with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. While he started the game with some serious heat, he cooled off after missing an open three in the opening moments of the second half. Still, he was a headache for the Buckeyes throughout the contest and turned out some solid passes as Ohio State keyed in on him.

As one of the next four teams out, a lot of chaos would have to fall Iowa's way to crack the NCAA tournament. They'll now have to settle for an NIT invitation. Should they accept it, they would have a strong chance to make a deep run there.

Without an NCAA Tournament bid, it's the first time Iowa will miss the Big Dance under head coach Fran McCaffrey since 2018.

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