Iowa men’s basketball ‘locked in’ for Big Ten Tournament

Iowa opens its play in the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament Thursday in what the team hopes is the first game of a championship stretch.


Emily Wangen

Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp prepares to make a free throw during a game on Sunday, March 8, 2020 at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill. The Hawkeyes lost to the Fighting Illini, 76-78.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

The regular season for the Iowa men’s basketball team is over. Now, the postseason awaits.

The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes play Minnesota Thursday following the Michigan-Rutgers game that starts at noon. The winner moves on to play fourth-seeded Illinois.

To win the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa will need to win four games in four days after missing out on the double-bye.

“We’re going to play a really good team on Thursday,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We know that. Hopefully you can win and advance. It’s not like you can look at Thursday by playing some guys less minutes so they’re ready on Friday and Saturday. You can’t do it.

“You have to go and try to win Thursday and then survive. And you’re playing somebody really good, who is physical and big and strong and has talent, and you’ll do the same the next day.”

The 20-game conference schedule has taken a toll on the Hawkeyes down the final stretch of the regular season. The team did get a brief period to rest after the regular season finale againt the Illini on March 8.

“I feel kind of refreshed knowing the regular season is over with,” Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp said. “We’ve got postseason, two tournaments to look forward to. It’s a grind. We’ve got to take care of our bodies. We’re doing everything we can now, even prior to the games, to make sure that our minds and our bodies are ready to go.”

No matter the quality of the conference, winning the Big Ten Tournament is always a challenge. This year in particular, gettting the conference crown will be uniqely difficult.

The race in this year’s tournament is as wide as ever. Three teams tied for first place in the Big Ten. From top to bottom, the league has been strong all year. It will be a wide-open race to get to the championship game.

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“Oh, it’s by far the best [bracket] since I’ve been in the league,” McCaffery said. “When you think about what happened over the year and the quality of the teams, the number of teams we’re getting in and the number of really good players, it stands to reason. And that’s why it will be a great tournament for people to watch.”

Iowa’s been dealing with the grueling nature of the Big Ten all season long. That experience will help push the Hawkeyes in the tournament.

The Hawkeyes ended the season by losing two games in a row. The team hasn’t lost three consecutive games all season long. It doesn’t plan to change that at the Big Ten Tournament.

“I think this team is really ready to start playing for championships,” Iowa forward Ryan Kriener said. “We’ll relock it in and use the tournament as a motivating factor. I think we’re ready to lock it in and make a run here.”

Under McCaffery, Iowa has had its struggles in the Big Ten Tournament. This year’s team, led by center Luka Garza, is ready to change that perception.

“We’re determined; we’re locked in,” Garza said. “We know we can beat any team that’s put in front of us in the Big Ten. I think we’ve shown that in the past and that we have a lot of confidence going into this tournament. We’re going to gain some momentum by playing on Thursday and try to make a run. I think we have the team to do it.”

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