Analyzing Iowa men’s basketball team’s tournament chances halfway through Big Ten play

Back-to-back losses by the Iowa men’s basketball team have the Hawkeyes inching closer to the postseason bubble.


Grace Smith

Iowa forwards Kris and Keegan Murray talk during a break in the play at a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers, 83-74.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery wanted nothing to do with any postseason discussions during a mid-January press conference.

“I just think, to be honest with you, it’s just crazy to look at that stuff right now,” McCaffery said in response to a question about Iowa’s NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) ranking at the time. “It’s senseless. You know what’s coming. We have a ton of monster games coming up. I said it last year, you look at this league from top to bottom, and it was the best it had been since I’ve been here. It might be better this year in terms of strength of teams top to bottom.”

Well, Tuesday marked the start of February, meaning March Madness is only a month away.

And Iowa’s most recent game is pushing the Hawkeyes closer to the tournament bubble. Despite a buzzer-beating tip-in at the end of regulation by sophomore forward Keegan Murray, the Hawkeyes lost to Penn State, 90-86, in double overtime on Monday. Iowa stands at 14-7 overall and 4-6 in Big Ten play with 10 games to go in the regular season after two straight losses.

The Daily Iowan analyzed Iowa’s postseason resume and sifted through NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament projections midway through the conference schedule.

Here is where the Hawkeyes stand with March Madness as February gets underway.

Metrics like the Hawkeyes

In the most recent NET rankings, which were released on Tuesday, Iowa came in at No. 23 in the country. The NET is the NCAA’s primary evaluation tool for sorting teams. These rankings, per the NCAA website, “play an important role in establishing a team’s resume.”

This system takes into account game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses. The NET also ties into the quadrant system, which organizes wins and losses based on location and NET ranking. A Quadrant 1 win means beating elite competition, while a Quadrant 4 loss means losing to a subpar team. Quadrant wins and losses are broken up as follows:

  • Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, neutral 1-50, away 1-75.
  • Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, neutral 51-100, away 76-135.
  • Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, neutral 101-200, away 135-240.
  • Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, neutral 201-353, away 241-353.

Iowa is 1-5 in Quadrant 1 games this season, with wins over Indiana at home and Utah State at a neutral location. The Hawkeyes are 3-2 in Quadrant 2 games and a combined 10-0 in Quadrant 3/4 games. These records are subject to change, as a team could rise or fall in the rankings, which would impact which quadrant a win or loss against that team would fall into.

RELATED: Keegan Murray’s buzzer-beater not enough in Iowa men’s basketball’s double-OT loss

Iowa is also ranked 23rd by, which ranks Iowa as the eighth-most efficient offense and 103rd most efficient defense in the nation.

“We have what it takes to get it done,” Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon said. “I think we have the group that can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, we just have to keep building things one game at a time.”

What the experts are saying

In his most recent tournament projection, which was released on Jan. 28, ESPN bracketology guru Joe Lunardi had Iowa as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes were facing St. Mary’s in San Diego in the South Region as part of Lunardi’s projection. March Madness reporter Andy Katz also had Iowa as a seven seed in his most recent projections, which were released on Jan. 20 — before Iowa’s back-to-back losses.

The Athletic’s Brian Bennett had Iowa as a No. 8 seed in his projections released on Jan. 28. Bennett’s bracket had Iowa playing Oklahoma in Portland as part of the West Region.

Tim Krueger of Stadium marked Iowa down as a No. 9 seed in his bracket projection, which was released on Monday. Krueger had Iowa playing Wake Forest in Greenville, North Carolina, as part of the Midwest region.

CBS’s Jerry Palm saw Iowa as a No. 12 seed in his Monday projections. Palm had Iowa playing Creighton in one of the First Four games in his latest bracket.

Where Iowa goes from here

Ten games, all against Big Ten teams, remain for Iowa in the regular season.

Five of them will be played at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, while the other five will be played on the road. The Hawkeyes are 1-4 on the road against conference teams this season and winless overall against ranked teams. Three of Iowa’s last 10 games will be against teams that are currently ranked, while five of them will be against teams that are in the bottom four of the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes are currently in ninth place in the 14-team conference. The combined record of Iowa’s remaining regular season opponents is 105-87 (54.7 winning percentage).

Nine Big Ten teams made the men’s tournament last season, including Michigan State — who went 15-13 overall and 9-11 in Big Ten play — as an 11th seed.

Iowa would automatically clinch a berth to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big Ten Tournament. Otherwise, there are 37 at-large bids to the “Big Dance.”