Here’s the primary reason the Iowa men’s basketball team wants to defeat Wisconsin Sunday:
To defeat Wisconsin.
Oh, but there’s more. If the Hawkeyes complete a two-game sweep of the Badgers since the 2011-12 season, they’ll finish alone in third place in the Big Ten. That means they’ll be on the opposite side of league-champion Michigan in the Big Ten tournament bracket.
Iowa was assured a spot in Friday’s Big Ten quarterfinals Saturday when Illinois defeated Ohio State, thus locking up a spot in the top four of the regular-season standings for the 13-6 Hawkeyes.
Now the question is if Iowa finishes third or fourth. Purdue is 13-6 and is done with its regular-season play after defeating Indiana Saturday.
Iowa hadn’t earned a double-bye to the quarters since the Big Ten’s first 14-team tourney in 2015, and is going directly to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. The Hawkeyes won’t know their Friday opponent in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium until Thursday when the tournament’s second round is conducted.
Winning three games in three days is a tall enough task to capture that tourney. Winning four games in four days has been done only by Iowa in 2001 and Michigan in 2017 and 2018.
The Hawkeyes and Badgers were picked second and third, respectively, in the Big Ten’s preseason media poll. No. 5 Iowa (19-7, 13-6 Big Ten) would finish behind only Michigan and preseason-favorite Illinois.
No. 25 Wisconsin (16-10, 10-9) has been a disappointment after tying for the league championship last season with so many players back from last season. The Badgers have dropped four of their last five games, starting with a 77-62 decision to Iowa in Madison on Feb. 18.
Should the Hawkeyes play defense that bears a reasonable facsimile to what they played at Wisconsin, and through much of their last eight games, they should be in good shape. The Badgers took 19 more shots than Iowa when they met, but made five fewer baskets.
The Hawkeyes have won six of their last seven contests and are currently slotted as a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament by three out of four dentists, er, bracketologists.
Another win against likely NCAA at-large team Wisconsin would not only give Iowa its 20th win, but would add to its argument for a No. 2 seed. The Hawkeyes haven’t been seeded that high in an NCAA tourney since 1987.
This will be the presumed final home games for Iowa senior standouts Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza. Bohannon had a season-high 26 points in the Hawkeyes’ 102-64 home blowout of Nebraska Thursday. Garza is about to wrap up his second-straight Big Ten scoring title, and is likely to get his second-consecutive conference Player of the Year award.
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