Before conference play kicked off in late December, Lisa Bluder said it would take at least nine Big Ten wins for her young Iowa squad to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Entering the final two weeks of the regular season Bluder still believes in her nine-win benchmark.
The Hawkeyes will need to be perfect the rest of the way to reach that goal.
Iowa (15-11, 5-9 Big Ten) needs four straight wins to close out the regular season to pull its Big Ten record to .500.
According to Bluder there is a chance Iowa makes its ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance with an 8-10 Big Ten record.
Four straight wins to end the season and a 9-9 conference mark would make Selection Monday a whole lot easier for Bluder.
“It’s possible (to make it at 8-10) but I’m still going to hold out for 9-9,” Bluder said. “If we are 8-10 we are going to do the best we can in the conference tournament and then we will just have to sit on pins and needles for a couple of weeks and get a lot of rabbits’ tails and rosary beads and all the other things that come with it when you are trying to predict what the selection committee is going to do.”
Iowa enters the final four games of the Big Ten season firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Hawkeyes have lost four in a row after Monday’s 78-76 loss at Minnesota and have dropped to 10th in the Big Ten standings.
Iowa believes it can finish the season with four straight wins in a stretch that includes three home games, beginning with Thursday’s meeting with Purdue (16-9, 7-7).
“We are going to have to win out from here to get to the NCAA Tournament and it’s something that we do believe we can do,” Iowa junior Ally Disterhot said. “Going forward we are confident that we can finish the year out 4-0 and we are just going to have to get after in practice and prepare for these games.”
While Iowa’s tournament resume has certainly taken a hit during its current four-game losing skid, the Hawkeyes still find themselves firmly in the NCAA Tournament conversation.
Charlie Creme of ESPN had Iowa as one of the first four out in his updated Bracketology on Tuesday.
Iowa still has an RPI of 57 and with home games remaining against Purdue and Indiana, two teams ahead of Iowa in the Big Ten standings, it has a chance to climb the conference ladder.
More than half of Iowa’s losses this season, including three during its current four-game losing skid, have come to teams in the RPI top 50.
“There is no doubt that this conference is so strong, it is just an incredible conference and we should be rewarded for that,” Bluder said. “We played a good nonconference schedule and we won in the nonconference.”
Now Iowa needs to win in the conference.
If Iowa can close out the season with four straight wins over Purdue, Indiana, Penn State and Illinois, the Hawkeyes would put themselves in a position to possibly secure a bid with a strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament.
The first step comes Thursday against Purdue.
“I think that’s just what the selection committee looks at is if you can get to .500 in your conference, especially with how competitive the Big Ten is,” Disterhoft said. “If you can go to the Big Ten tournament and get a few wins there I think that also helps but it’s just kind of been stuck in our head getting to the .500 mark and if we can do that I think we have a pretty good shot of getting in.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
Iowa is one of 10 teams in the country to appear in the last eight NCAA Tournaments
Year, Record, NCAA seeded, Advanced
2014-2015: 26-8, 14-4 3 Seed Sweet 16
2013-2014: 27-9, 11-5 6 Seed 2nd Round
2012-2013: 21-13, 8-8 9 Seed 2nd Round
2011-2012: 19-12, 11-5 9 Seed Opening Round
2010-2011: 22-9, 10-6 6 Seed Opening Round
2009-2010: 20-14, 10-8 8 Seed 2nd Round
2008-2009: 21-11, 13-5 8 Seed Opening Round
2007-2008: 21-11, 13-5 9 Seed Opening Round