11 To Go: Can Iowa Make The Dance?
The Iowa basketball team is off to a 2-5 start on the Big Ten season with 11 games to play. Have they dug a hole too deep to climb out of?
For the Iowa men’s basketball team, now is the time to go. Now is the time to put a few things together and show that the program is moving forward. There are 11 games left in the season and the majority of them are winnable. How winnable? What does Iowa have to do to make the dance?
Let’s take a look at Iowa’s remaining schedule from a Confidence Percentage Index point of view. Coincidentally, I went through this very exercise one year ago with 11 games remaining. Not sure why I chose to do that then or why the thought entered my mind at the same juncture of the season one year later.
I will say this; the game I was most confident in Iowa winning with 11 to play last year was their home game against Nebraska, which they lost (after leading by double digits). Of the five games where I had Iowa below a 50% confidence mark, they lost four of those five with the home game against Wisconsin being the lone exception.
1. Penn State at Iowa: This is Iowa’s next game on the schedule, which might be why my memory was jogged related to this sort of undertaking. Penn State has yet to win a Big Ten game and I don’t see that happening. CONFIDENCE: 80%
2. Nebraska at Iowa: The Cornhuskers want to play slow and ugly and more often than not, they accomplish that objective. But they are a bad team and Iowa must win this game and I think they will. CONFIDENCE: 70%
3. Northwestern at Iowa: The Hawks beat Northwestern by 20 points in Evanston and it will be the same cast of Cats in Iowa City later this year. I don’t think Iowa wins by that many points, as the second half of hoops was one of Iowa’s season best from an offensive perspective, but I expect a win. CONFIDENCE: 70%
4. Iowa at Penn State: Same Cats, different venue. Iowa has not looked great on the road as of late, but you could say that about most Big Ten teams. CONFIDENCE: 60%
5. Purdue at Iowa: Iowa must return the favor to Purdue in this game. The Boilermakers are a stingy defensive team but offensively challenged. Iowa is much better at home. CONFIDENCE: 55%
6. Iowa at Nebraska: This game could be downright ugly. I just hope it’s not Iowa at Purdue style ugly. CONFIDENCE: 55%
7. Illinois at Iowa: The Illini are all about the three. When they are on they can beat most teams in the country (see their wins against Butler and Gonzaga and to a lesser three-degree, Ohio State). When they are off, as they have been for the better part of the last month, Northwestern can beat them in Champaign by double-digits. CONFIDENCE: 50%
8. Minnesota at Iowa: The Gophers beat Nebraska 84-65 on Tuesday night to snap a four-game losing streak. They are a dangerous defensive team and can get out and run. I just don’t like the matchup for Iowa. CONFIDENCE: 45%
9. Iowa at Wisconsin: Iowa has won three in a row against Wisconsin. Tough to imagine them winning back to back games at the Kohl Center, isn’t it? CONFIDENCE: 30%
10. Iowa at Minnesota: Iowa won their last year, but the Hawks will have to be hitting from three to have a chance this year and Matt Gatens is playing in Europe. CONFIDENCE: 15%
11. Iowa at Indiana: Snowball, meet Hades. CONFIDENCE: 5%
So that’s six games where I would say right now I think Iowa will win, one tossup (Illinois) and four games where I side with a loss.
If Iowa goes 7-4 the rest of the way, that is a 20-11/9-9 season, which is what I predicted back in October. If that 7th win was the home game against Illinois, the Hawks will have to win two in the Big Ten tournament to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. If Iowa goes 6-5, I think they’d have to win the Big Ten tournament to get into the dance or at least make it to the finals with twins against two ranked teams. Of course, if Iowa went 6-4 and won at Indiana and beat Minnesota twice, that’s a different looking resume, but then there would be some bad losses tossed in the mix, too.
Iowa still has more than one-third of its season remaining, but as I wrote last week they have eliminated most all of their margin for error after not being able to beat Michigan State at home and Purdue on the road. Had Iowa done that, their RPI would be in the 50′s as opposed to the mid-80′s and they’d be in the field right now, with those wins against soft teams being resume filler.
Now? They probably have to go 7-0 against Nebraska (twice), Penn State (twice) and Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois at home just to be in the discussion as a bubble team.
Is it possible? Yes, as five of those seven games are at home. Do you feel good about the road games at Penn State and Nebraska? I don’t, not with the way this Iowa team shoots from beyond the arc.