A Sweet 16 appearance

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

This year, the Iowa men’s basketball team is going to make its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 1999.

Why? Because the Hawkeyes have grit.

Grit has been a hallmark of the 2021-22 Iowa men’s basketball team. The Hawkeyes have shown that they know how to take and throw punches this season — even against superior competition.

Versus now-No. 6 Purdue Dec. 3, Iowa shaved a 19-point second-half deficit to two over the course of about seven minutes. Ultimately, the Boilermakers won the game, 77-70, but the Hawkeyes proved they could compete with the country’s best teams. Had a few breaks gone their way, the Hawkeyes might’ve beaten the Boilermakers at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.

Iowa also has a good enough offense to break its Sweet 16 drought this season. The Hawkeyes rank second in the Big Ten Conference and fifth in the nation in scoring offense. Iowa is putting up about 83 points per game this season.

The Hawkeyes also have one of the country’s best scorers on their roster. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray’s 22.8 points per game average ranks third in the nation.

Iowa still ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in total defense, clocking in at 11th.  Last week, however, the Hawkeyes surrendered just 99 points across the two games they played — a marked improvement for a team that routinely let up more than 70 points per contest earlier this year.

Iowa has a Sweet 16-caliber offense. Now, the Hawkeyes just need to prove that their defense is ready for a deep NCAA Tournament run.

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