Big Ten tourney breakdown: TV, key matchups and the Hawkeyes
Iowa doesn't have to worry about its NCAA Tournament status entering this week's Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.
As of Tuesday, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had the 21-10 Hawkeyes pegged as a No. 7 seed in the NCAAs, and CBS Sports' Jerry Palm had them firmly in the 68-team field as a 6 seed.
But Iowa, which tied for third in the Big Ten at 12-6, still has a lot it can prove this week. Below is a look at the field, who's got a lot to lose (or gain) and the Hawkeyes:
BREAKING DOWN THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
WHEN, WHERE: Runs Wednesday through Sunday at the United Center in Chicago (schedule below)
PAST FIVE CHAMPIONS 2014: Michigan State; 2013: Ohio State; 2012: Michigan State; 2011: Ohio State; 2010: Ohio State. (Note: Iowa has a 2-8 Big Ten Tournament record since last winning it in 2006.)
POSSIBLE UPSET: Ohio State underachieved by finishing sixth at 11-7 in the league (getting swept by Iowa by mid-January hurt) after being billed as the Big Ten's No. 2 team behind Wisconsin. The Buckeyes could draw a handful in Thursday's opener, with 11-seed Minnesota as the likely opponent. if Richard Pitino's squad comes to play, it can beat almost anybody. The mercurial Gophers collected road wins at Iowa and Michigan State and took Ohio State to overtime. The Buckeyes are NCAA dancing either way, but whether they choose to hit the "on" switch now or wait until next week is the question.
MOST TO LOSE: Does Indiana not remind you of 2014 Iowa? The Hoosiers got off to a 5-1 Big Ten start, but have lost eight of their last 12 — including back-to-back home losses to finish. Pundits think Tom Crean's bumbling bunch, despite zero inside presence, can still make the tourney by beating 10-seed Northwestern on Thursday. The Wildcats are trying to make a desperation run to the NIT, and they beat Indiana two weeks ago in Evanston. The B1G's 1-B for "Most To Lose" is Illinois, which probably needs to beat Michigan in the 8-9 game for First Four consideration in Dayton. A loss, and the Illini are likely NIT-picking.
MOST TO GAIN: While Indiana and Illinois are trying to play their way off the NCAA bubble, Purdue can do the most to increase its seeding. Despite tying for third in the Big Ten, Matt Painter's stingy-on-defense Boilermakers are projected as an 11 seed, with a poor nonconference showing still dogging its resume. But Purdue, the No. 4 seed, could move up a few notches by knocking off probable opponents Iowa and Wisconsin to reach the Big Ten title game.
SIZING UP IOWA
The other day, Northwestern coach Chris Collins said of Iowa: "Not only are the old, they're good." Those two factors — veteran leadership and a versatile eight-man rotation — are why the Hawkeyes carry a six-game winning streak into Chicago. Early-season issues (shaky confidence, slow second-half starts, defensive lapses) have been corrected, largely in part to a core of three seniors, including all-Big Ten first-teamer Aaron White, and four juniors who understand their roles. As long as they beat the Penn State-Nebraska winner Thursday, the Hawkeyes won't slip below a No. 7 seed at the NCAAs. A successful week and a sign of progress would be getting to Saturday's Big Ten semifinals and hanging with (or, better yet, beating) top seed Wisconsin, which in two January meetings defeated Iowa by a combined 43 points.
FOLLOW RICK AND CHAD
Hawkeyes beat reporter Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) and columnist Rick Brown (@ByRickBrown) have you covered all week from the United Center. Follow their coverage at HawkCentral.com.
DAY-BY-DAY SCHEDULE, TV INFORMATION (all times CT)
Wednesday's opening round
3:30 p.m. — No. 13 Penn State vs. No. 12 Nebraska (ESPN2)
6 p.m. — No. 14 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Minnesota (BTN)
11 a.m. — No. 9 Michigan vs. No. 8 Illinois (BTN)
1:30 p.m. — No. 5 Iowa vs. Penn State-Nebraska winner (BTN)
5:30 p.m. — No. 10 Northwestern vs. No. 7 Indiana (ESPN2)
8 p.m. — No. 6 Ohio State vs. Rutgers-Minnesota winner (ESPN2)
11 a.m. — No. 1 Wisconsin vs. Illinois-Michigan winner (ESPN)
1:30 p.m. — No. 4 Purdue vs. Iowa/Penn State/Nebraska (ESPN)
5:30 p.m. — No. 2 Maryland vs. Indiana-Northwestern winner (BTN)
8 p.m. — No. 3 Michigan State vs. Ohio State/Rutgers/Minnesota (BTN)
Noon — Top bracket final (CBS)
2:30 p.m. — Bottom bracket final (CBS)
2:30 p.m. — Top bracket winner vs. Bottom bracket winner (CBS)