Plenty at stake for Iowa men’s basketball team in Big Ten Tournament

The Hawkeyes can improve their NCAA seeding during this week’s conference tournament.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa guard Tony Perkins attempts to windmill dunk during a men’s basketball game between No. 24 Iowa and Northwestern in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. Perkins scored six points. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 82-61.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The Iowa men’s basketball team walked off the court in Champaign, Illinois, on Sunday after a two-point loss ended its regular season.

Fighting Illini fans stormed the court as Illinois celebrated becoming co-Big Ten regular season champions, a title it shares with Wisconsin. With the loss, the Hawkeyes missed out on a double-bye in this week’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. Instead of needing to win three games to be crowned tournament champions, Iowa will now need four. But the Hawkeyes know there is no time to dwell on that.

The hunt for the Big Ten Tournament title begins on Wednesday night.

“We missed a lot of shots we normally make,” forward Keegan Murray, who was named first-team All-Big Ten on Tuesday, said of the Illinois game. “We made mistakes down the stretch. That was a learning experience for us. But it was better for that game to happen now than during tournament time. I think, for us as a team, that really brought us closer together and got us closer to March, because that’s what the atmosphere is going to be like. All the records fly out the window. Every game from now on is win or go home.”

The 2022 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament begins with two first-round games on Wednesday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The men’s tournament tips off after Iowa won the women’s tournament last weekend.

Iowa’s first game is scheduled to be played at around 1 p.m. on Thursday. The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes (22-9 overall, 12-8 Big Ten) will play the winner of the Nebraska-Northwestern matchup being played Wednesday night. Iowa is a combined 3-0 against the Cornhuskers and Wildcats this season.

Despite finishing fifth in the Big Ten after the regular season, Iowa has the third-best odds (+600) of winning the Big Ten Tournament, according to BetMGM. Only Purdue and Illinois were given better odds. Despite their loss to the Illini, the Hawkeyes are one of the hottest teams in the conference entering the postseason.

The Hawkeyes won eight of their final 10 games of the regular season.

“Everybody knows, from the two teams that won [the regular season title] and everybody else, anybody can beat anybody,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said. “That’s kind of what makes this time of year so exciting across the board. You see it every night … We’re excited for the opportunity.”

Iowa has been a top-five seed in the conference tournament the last three years. Last season, the Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten quarterfinals before losing to Illinois in the semifinals.

But the Hawkeyes are 0-4 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament as a No. 5 seed.

Breaking that streak could better set up Iowa for the NCAA Tournament. Iowa is projected to be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament field by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi. On a more personal note, a couple of wins in Indianapolis could set up a rematch with Illinois. The Hawkeyes and the Fighting Illini could face off in the conference semifinals on Saturday.

And Iowa will be ready if that is the case.

“Knowing that we could see them again, and beat them this time, that’s all that we really care about,” Iowa guard Tony Perkins said. “Knowing we have the potential to go far in the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, that brings a lot of confidence to our team.”