Iowa fans have not been in this position since Dr. Tom Davis' final season, a year that Iowa was a five seed in the Big Dance; Iowa fans knew that the Hawks were going to play in the Big Acronym once February gave way to March.
In 2001, Iowa had to win four games in four days to make the tournament after losing seven of its final eight Big Ten regular season games. Last year, Iowa won five games in a row, the fifth coming against eventual Final Four participant Michigan State, in order to make it to the tournament. If they had only won four games in a row and lost to MSU, they would not have made it. Playing Wisconsin, an eventual Elite Eight team, close and losing on a 35-footer at the buzzer in the Big Ten semi's didn't hurt, either.
So now we can talk about seeding.
In Thursday's ‘Bracketology' report on ESPN, it had Iowa as a four seed in the Salt Lake City pod, with Kansas being the five. They were in the Washington, D.C. regional where Connecticut was the one seed.
The four and the five seeds are pretty much the same; Iowa needs to finish very strong over the next 10 days in order to play its way into the three seed which has some big time advantages this year.
If the chalk prevails, the three seed plays the six seed in round two. The winner of that game likely gets the two seed in the Sweet 16 round.
As of Thursday, here were ESPN's projected two seeds; Ohio State, Gonzaga, Illinois and LSU.
Iowa has beaten two of those teams already this year, and Gonzaga and LSU are also beatable. UNI beat LSU in Baton Rouge this year and Gonzaga has been feasting on weak teams from the West Coast Conference for the last couple of months; they are unbeaten in league play, with the 2nd place teams having a record of 8-6 in league and this conference will get just one bid in the Big Dance unless Gonzaga loses in the conference tournament.
Being either a four or a five seed and drawing a one seed in round three is going to be a tough out this year, as it is in most years. This year's projected one seeds; Duke, Connecticut, Memphis and Villanova.
ESPN's current projected three seeds are Texas, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Tennessee. Bruce Pearl's Vols are fading down the stretch and they face a Vanderbilt team on Saturday (at Vandy) that is 60th in the RPI. A loss there and or an early loss in the SEC tournament could drop the Vols down to a four seed. North Carolina closes its season at Duke, a likely loss. That would put their record at 20-7 and 11-5 in the ACC. If Iowa wins on Saturday, they too would have an 11-5 conference record in a league that is rated higher than the ACC. Texas closes its season with a tough assignment at Oklahoma. A loss would drop them to 24-6, including a rough loss this week at Texas A&M. Texas currently has six wins against Top 50 RPI teams, though they did beat Iow head to head back in November.
A win over Wisconsin would be Iowa's ninth against teams rated in the Top 50 of the RPI, second only to UConn's 12 such wins.
Clearly, cases could be made here if Iowa finishes strong.
As you can see, getting to that three seed would give Iowa its best chance at a prolonged stay in the NCAA tournament this year.
With Wisconsin losing to Michigan State on Thursday, Iowa is guaranteed of finishing no worse than 3rd in the Big Ten this year. Since 1984, Iowa has finished in third place four times and second place one time.
My friend Steve Deace of 1460 KXNO said something on his program Thursday that I totally agree with.
He said that should Iowa beat Wisconsin on Saturday, the Hawks should hang a banner in Carver-Hawkeye Arena that celebrates Iowa's perfect home record, something that would be an Arena first and something that Iowa has not done for four-plus decades.
It would be a nice honor for players like Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner, something that could be celebrated for a long time to come.
If Iowa wins on Saturday, they are the two seed in the Big Ten tournament. It looks like Illinois is going to be the three seed. Iowa would play its first round game on Friday at 5:40pm. Illinois would play its first game on Friday at 8:10pm. So what? Should both teams win, they would face each other on Saturday at 12:40pm. A one day turnaround is quick for everyone, but Illinois would not get done with their game until after 10:00pm and would not likely make it back to their hotel before midnight, a time that the Hawkeyes would likely be tucked in their beds and working on a couple hours sleep. I would bet the curfew for the Iowa players would be five minutes after the Illinois game gets over.