Iowa vs. Illinois Preview: How to watch Hawkeyes bid for the NCAA Tournament

The Iowa Hawkeyes have done everything down the stretch necessary to make their case for the NCAA Tournament. With a win over Illinois, their spot would be solidified.
Northwestern v Iowa
Northwestern v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

Having won four of their last five, the Iowa Hawkeyes are in as much control of their NCAA Tournament destiny as any team could ask for at this stage. That one loss, however, is exactly who the Hawkeyes matchup with to close the regular season.

Iowa will host No. 12 Illinois in the regular season finale. Coming off a Quad 1 win over Northwestern, the Illinois matchup can make or break the the Hawkeyes postseason dreams.

As it stands with Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology breakdown, Iowa is one of the First Four Out with some work to do. The Hawkeyes will have the Big Ten Tournament to lean on for extra opportunities to make their case for the Big Dance, but all eyes will be on the Hawkeyes in this weekend's Senior Day game.

Still, the Hawkeyes have been impressive down the stretch, averaging 1.21 points per possession in their last five games, grabbing the first triple-double in program history via Payton Sandfort against Penn State, and notching wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northwestern.

Illinois, on the other hand, is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, finishing second in the Big Ten regular season standings. The Illini are led by Terrence Shannon Jr.'s 21.6 points per game with solid help underneath by their primary bigs, Quincy Guerrier and Coleman Hawkins, who scored 30 against the Hawkeyes roughly two weeks ago.

Arguably the biggest weakness in Illinois' offensive game is not spreading the ball around efficiently with just 13 assists per game and no player averaging more than four. But as a team, they average 84 points per game, a tick higher than Iowa, so it's not exactly a cause for concern on Illinois' part.

Iowa has gotten by with excellent shot selection inside and hitting from three when it counts. Matching up with Illinois inside will be just as difficult as before, though the defense for Illinois has been lacking to close the season. Plus, coming off a disappointing loss to No. 2 Purdue with a chance at the Big Ten regular season championship could dampen their spirits if Iowa is lucky.

The regular season finale for Iowa will tip off at 6 p.m. from Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Fox Sports One

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