Why? Because the Hawkeyes (15-13) usually do so well in the Big Ten tournament and they manhandled Ohio State late in a Feb. 25 victory at Columbus.
And, oh, sure, I know they don't play ties in basketball, but how else are you going to pick a game between Iowa State, which hadn't been able to win anywhere but Hilton Coliseum in Ames and Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, and Texas A&M, which has never won a game in the Big 12 tournament since the conference was formed seven years ago?
But, after leading at halftime, 27-23, Iowa managed to get outscored, 11-0, and fell behind, 59-47, before making a game of it at the end.
"Not to downplay (Ohio State's) zone defense because I think they worked hard, but we weren't making shots," Iowa coach Steve Alford said on his radio show after his team's 66-64 loss. "We've got to find a way to make some perimeter shots, and obviously in the last three weeks we haven't been able to do that."
Guard Jeff Horner was scoreless against the Buckeyes, missing all six of his field goal attempts, five of them from beyond the three-point stripe.
"He hasn't played well for three weeks since his injury," Alford said. "Hopefully, he can get healed up and have a good postseason for us."
Whatever postseason is ahead for Iowa is the NIT. The Hawkeyes will learn their fate Sunday night after the NCAA field is full.
"Hopefully, we can get some momentum going into the NIT," said guard Brody Boyd, who gave Iowa a last-half lift and scored all of his 15 points on three-point baskets.
"We knew they were going to (Brent) Darby," Boyd said of the Ohio State guard who scored the game-winning basket with 1.8 seconds left and finished with 18 points. "He came off the pick-and-roll and scored."
Vol. 3, No. 14
March 13, 2003
Ron Maly's e-mail address is email@example.com ]