Hawkeyes set for NCAA Tournament following loss to Michigan

For the first time since the 2015-16 season, Iowa men's basketball will find itself in the NCAA Tournament.

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Hawkeyes set for NCAA Tournament following loss to Michigan

Iowa forward Luka Garza attempts a shot during the Iowa/Michigan Big Ten Tournament men's basketball game in the United Center in Chicago on Friday, March 15, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes, 74-53.

Iowa forward Luka Garza attempts a shot during the Iowa/Michigan Big Ten Tournament men's basketball game in the United Center in Chicago on Friday, March 15, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes, 74-53.

Lily Smith

Iowa forward Luka Garza attempts a shot during the Iowa/Michigan Big Ten Tournament men's basketball game in the United Center in Chicago on Friday, March 15, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes, 74-53.

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa forward Luka Garza attempts a shot during the Iowa/Michigan Big Ten Tournament men's basketball game in the United Center in Chicago on Friday, March 15, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes, 74-53.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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CHICAGO – The Hawkeyes are headed back to Iowa City after suffering a brutal 74-53 loss to Michigan on Friday.

After a performance in which it couldn’t be stopped against Illinois on Thursday, nothing went right for Iowa against the Wolverines.

The Hawkeyes finished 1-of-16 from 3-point range, while Michigan drained 10 shots from beyond the arc.

Despite the disappointing performance after snapping a four-game losing streak, Iowa still has something to play for that it hasn’t had since 2016: the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s obviously disappointing right now, but we know if we play like we did [Thursday], we can do some big things,” Iowa forward Luka Garza said. “In general, looking back at last year where we were when we ended this Big Ten Tournament, we’re in a lot better place right now. This is not the end of our season.”

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi moved Iowa up to a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region where the Hawkeyes would play their first game against No. 9 Utah State. If Iowa won in Lunardi’s prediction, it would go on to face No. 1 North Carolina in the Round of 32.

Iowa missed the tournament in 2017, securing a No. 1 seed in the NIT instead, before missing the Big Dance altogether last season.

After a 4-14 record in conference play in 2017-18, it’s apparent Iowa has taken a big step forward. Now, the Hawkeyes get a chance to enjoy Selection Sunday for the first time in years.

“Coming back from what was a struggle last year to win 22 games and 11 games in our league in a year where we played 20 league games, win a tournament in New York, win our challenge games,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Just couldn’t be more proud of the leadership in that locker room.”

The Hawkeyes will head into the regular season without much experience. Only Nicholas Baer has played in an NCAA Tournament game, while the other Iowa starters – excluding Joe Wieskamp – have only played in the NIT.

The tourney has been the team’s goal since they stepped on campus, and now they’ve reached that level.

“This is what you’ve worked for,” Wieskamp said. “Everyone’s worked hard for this, to get our team back, our program back to that opportunity, and we’re just excited for it.”

Iowa took a step forward in Chicago despite its blowout loss to the Wolverines. The Hawkeyes showed what they are capable of in terms of bouncing back from adversity against Illinois.

Iowa dropped four in a row before toppling the Illini, and its performance in that game can be a model for the rest of the season.

“[Near the end of the season] we went through a little funk, we stayed positive with each other, and I think we’ll do the same thing again now,” Iowa forward Tyler Cook said. “We still got basketball to play. We’ll go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week.”