Iowa coach Lisa Bluder discusses the impact of Megan Gustafson on the NCAA-bound Hawkeyes.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Hawkeyes continue to wait patiently on their future as the postseason creeps closer. By the time Selection Monday rolls around, it’ll have been more than a week since Iowa was knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament on March 2.
That gap isn’t ideal as coaches and teams look to maintain some sort of routine this time of year. But given how stressful that wait has been for Lisa Bluder’s squad the past couple seasons, the Hawkeyes likely don’t mind too much. There’s no bubble- watching or number-crunching this year.
Highlighted by an on-campus watch party, Iowa will celebrate Selection Monday for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign. This isn’t new territory for the program — the Hawkeyes only missed six NCAA Tournaments from 1986-2015 — but NIT disappointment scarred the last two years. Those were Iowa’s first back-to-back Big Dance absences since the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
There won’t be a third.
The Hawkeyes have strung together an impressive season from November to March and boast a resume that checks all the boxes. Let’s run through Iowa’s Selection Monday outlook and break down why Iowa is in the position it’s in.
If you’re a women’s college basketball fan, every projection that ESPN’s Charlie Creme puts out this time of year is treated like gold. Creme is the bracketology authority on the women’s side and has an impressive track record, to boot.
Back in mid-February, Creme told HawkCentral that if Iowa won out to close the regular season and made a bit of noise in the Big Ten Tournament, a No. 6 seed stood as the Hawkeyes’ ceiling.
Creme’s words came ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 11 game at Northwestern after the Hawkeyes had already won three straight, and Bluder’s squad kept rolling from there. They toppled the Wildcats and won the next three as well, finishing the regular season on a seven-game surge. Iowa fell by one point to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, but the Hawkeyes avoided a second-round upset versus Northwestern and didn’t lay an egg against the Gophers.
So it’s no surprise that Creme has Iowa as a No. 6 seed in his latest bracketology, facing South Dakota State in Knoxville, Tennessee. He had Iowa as a No. 9 seed when HawkCentral spoke with him, but Crème has slowly moved the Hawkeyes up the board over the last month, keeping them on the six-seed line ever since the Minnesota loss last Friday.
That’s a reasonable expectation come Selection Monday. The committee might drop Iowa down one peg, but the 6-7 seed range seems most likely. A few additional projections have Iowa in a similar spot: College Sports Madness had Iowa as a No. 6 seed earlier this week (although the Hawkeyes wouldn’t play Nebraska in the opening round as this projection shows) and RealTimeRPI.com pegs Iowa as a No. 5 seed playing in Tampa.
No matter which seed the Hawkeyes end up with, the committee will look at Iowa’s resume favorably among the teams not quite in that upper echelon. Usually teams in the No. 6-to-No. 8 seed range have one or two glaring flaws, but the Hawkeyes’ numbers are strong across the board.
As of Saturday, Iowa’s RPI sits at 22. Eighteen of the 21 teams ranked ahead of the Hawkeyes are seeded better than a No. 6 seed in Creme’s latest projection, suggesting that Iowa is near the top of that middle crop of tourney-bound squads.
More metrics in the Hawkeyes’ favor: They finished 6-4 versus top-50 RPI teams and didn’t suffer a loss to a squad with an RPI lower than 62 (Purdue). Additionally, Jeff Sagarin ranks Iowa’s strength of schedule at 24.
Using the new quadrant system the men’s basketball committee has adopted, one can further see the strength of Iowa’s resume. Using RPI, here are the official quadrant definitions:
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.
By those metrics, Iowa is a combined 12-7 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games.
Quadrant 1 wins include Ohio State (6 RPI), at Rutgers (40 RPI), at Michigan State (64 RPI) and against Elon on a neutral floor (38 RPI).
Quadrant 2 wins include Quinnipiac (36 RPI) Western Kentucky (56 RPI), at Iowa State (105 RPI), at Northern Iowa (128 RPI), Drake (72 RPI), Michigan (39 RPI), Minnesota (41 RPI) and Indiana (54 RPI).
Perhaps most importantly is the lack of bad losses. Five of Iowa’s seven defeats are Quadrant 1 losses: Florida State (8 RPI), at Maryland (17 RPI), at Nebraska (60 RPI) and two against Minnesota (one on the road and one on a neutral floor).
The Hawkeyes’ only two Quadrant 2 losses are home defeats to Purdue (62 RPI) and Nebraska.
The women’s game doesn’t use the quadrant system, but it can be easily applied to illustrate more evidence in Iowa’s favor. No matter which way you slice it, Selection Monday should go over well in Iowa City.
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.