Now, some folks are thinking, ‘Jon, this team isn't going to the NCAA tournament, or the NIT so it really doesn't matter that much.'
That's a fair point, but I suspect every player and coach in the Iowa basketball program wants to play as long as they possibly can. The seniors do, the freshmen need the experience, as does every man on the roster.
This is a team that has showed steady improvement over the course of the Big Ten season, in spite of their 13-point loss at Minnesota on Saturday and their 21 turnovers.
This year will mark the first College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, or another opportunity for programs to keep playing basketball. Here is a link to the tournament: CLICK HERE
Last year, Iowa finished with a record of 17-14, and the folks that are putting on this tournament produced a mock bracket of what last year's tournament may have looked like, and Iowa was included. CLICK HERE to get a look at that bracket.
Iowa would have hosted at least a first round game against UNI, and possibly a second round game.
The postseason NIT is now owned by the NCAA and they shrunk that field from 40 teams down to 32 last year.
At present, Iowa is 11-14 overall on the season, so they would have some work to do to be considered for even the CBI event.
But the Hawks next two opponents are at home, against Michigan on Thursday night, and Northwestern on Tuesday, February 19th. Iowa beat Michigan in Ann Arbor earlier this year, and Northwestern sits at 0-10 in league play. Iowa is 4-8.
It's not far fetched to think that Iowa could win both of those games, getting their overall record to 13-14 and league record to 6-8 with four games remaining.
One of those games is a road trip to Michigan State. That will be a loss, and hopefully the Hawks can keep it under 20. They are averaging around a 25 point loss in their last seven or eight trips to East Lansing.
The remaining three games are at Penn State, and the Hawks beat PSU by double digits in CHA not too long ago, then a home game against Illinois, who is 2-9 in Big Ten play, before the regular season finale at Northwestern.
So while it might sound improbable that Iowa could close this season by winning five of its final six games, because this team has not been consistent, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
If they did that, they would finish with a regular season record of 16-15 and an even 9-9 in the Big Ten. Todd Lickliter would deserve Coach of the Year honors, but he won't win it. Iowa would be a lock to be seeded no worse than 7th in the Big Ten tournament, and likely sixth.
With that record, they could conceivably finish in a tie for 5th place in the conference with Ohio State. The Buckeyes are likely going to win at least two more games, against Northwestern at home and on the road at Michigan.
But their remaining games after that include road trips to Minnesota, two games against Indiana, and home game against Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State.
They could lose every one of those games. I don't think that will happen, either, but they could.
So at the extreme best, Iowa could finish tied for fifth. I just wouldn't wager too much on that horse.
As I have written in previous years, if you are not going to get a first day bye, the six hole is a pretty decent spot. You play the 11 seed, which will be Northwestern, on a Thursday. Then you play the three seed. As long as that seed isn't Indiana, it's not a horrible draw. Then you would play the two seed if you won that, and again, as long as it's not Indiana, as the tournament will be in Indianapolis this year.
The seven seed plays the ten seed, which will probably be Penn State. The winner of that game gets the two seed.
The eight and nine seeds play on Thursday, and the winner gets the #1 seed.
All of this is highly speculative obviously, and we are talking about a team that has had at least 20 turnovers in each of its last three road games.
But hey, at least it doesn't look impossible.
STATS, NOTES & MORE…
Jeff Peterson has 81 assists on the season and is within shouting distance of topping 100 for the year, his true freshman campaign. One would think that there are bright days ahead for Peterson, especially as Coach Lickliter brings in more shooters. Ronnie Lester had 98 during his true freshman year, and he is currently 6th on the freshman assist record list. Jeff Horner owns that record with 140.
Justin Johnson is currently on pace to make 99 three point shots on 272 attempts. Both of those marks would be #2 all time for season behind Chris Kingsbury (117 of 297). Johnson has made 8 three-point shots in two games this season, becoming only the second player in Iowa history to make at least eight treys in a game. Kingsbury did that twice in his career, and he hit seven treys in a game on three other occasions.
The six seed is 16-8 all time at the Big Ten tournament, tied for the second best winning percentage of any seed. The two seed is 19-5 all time, with the one seed being 14-7. Every other seed has a losing record, save the eight seed, which is 9-9.
Here is a partial list of All Time Big Ten team records held by Iowa:
Points, Season: 1,642, 1988
Points per game, Season: 102.9 (1,441 in 14 games), 1970
Field Goals per game, Season: 39.9 (559 in 14 games), 1970
Steals, Season: 184, 1994
Steals, Single game: 23 vs. Northwestern, 2/22/86
Turnovers Forced, Per Game: 19.1, 1995
Three-Point FG Made, Season: 158, 1995
Three-Point FG Attempts, Season: 413, 1995
Iowa is also tied with Illinois for the longest winning streak in the Big Ten tournament, at seven games. Steve Alford has more Big Ten tournament wins than any coach, with 13. Tom Izzo is #2 at 11.
Since the Big Ten tournament began in 1998, Northwestern and Michigan have won just three games, each, while Purdue and Minnesota have won a total of four Big Ten tournament games, each. Combined (14), that is just one more tournament game than Iowa has won (13). Tom Davis was 0-2 in the Big Ten tournament while at Iowa.
The following is Iowa's rank in the Big Ten in the listed statistical categories:
11th in points per game (55.2)
3rd in points per game defense (60.1)
9th in free throw percentage (64.6%)
10th in field goal percentage (41.3%)
6th in field goal percentage defense (42.6%)
6th in three-point percentage (34.2%)
6th in three-point field goal defense (33.3%)
7th in rebounding margin (+1.2)
11th in steals
11th in turnover margin
10th in offensive rebounds
Tony Freeman is 5th in the league in scoring at 15.1 points per game. Cyrus Tate is 4th in rebounds per game and Seth Gorney is 6th. Tate leads the league in field goal percentage. Freeman is 9th in assists while Jeff Peterson is 13th. Peterson is 6th in free throw percentage. Freeman leads the league in three's made per game while Justin Johnson is 3rd. Freeman is 4th in minutes played while Johnson is 6th.