Big Ten Tournament Preview: Hawkeyes Look For March Madness Momentum

Written By Brandon Hurley on March 8, 2022
Big Ten Tournament

A last-second miss against Illinois in Sunday’s season finale sent the Iowa Hawkeyes spiraling to the fifth seed as the 2022 Big Ten Tournament gets underway this week.

What could’ve been a double-bye instead left the Hawks playing at 1 p.m. Thursday as the fifth seed. They’ll face the winner of 13th-seeded Nebraska and No. 12 Northwestern in a second-round game at Indianapolis.

  • Iowa swept Nebraska in the regular season, anchored by a 23-point win in Iowa City (98-75) and a somewhat tense 88-78 victory Feb. 25 in Lincoln.
  • The Hawks played Northwestern just once this season but handled the Wildcats relatively easily with a 82-61 triumph on the road Feb. 28.

The unfortunate drop in seeding is not to say the Hawkeyes don’t have a legitimate chance of securing the Big Ten’s automatic March Madness bid.

Iowa is the third favorite to win the tournament on Sunday by most outlets, with Purdue the odds-on favorite. Illinois, who secured the bracket’s top seed by defeating Iowa, 74-72 on March 6, is the second favorite. Following Wisconsin’s shocking home loss to Nebraska Sunday, the Badgers are surprisingly slotted as the team with the fourth-best odds to win despite earning a share of the regular-season Big Ten title.

Big Ten Tournament odds

Iowa has caught the eye of bettors recently thanks to their late-season tear. The Hawkeyes closed the year with wins in eight of their last 10, with each victory by double digits.

Historical trends don’t necessarily favor the Hawks, however. The Black and Gold haven’t raised a Big Ten Tournament banner since 2006. The boys from Iowa City have struggled in the nearly two decades since that triumph, having failed to win more than one game in the same Big Ten tourney in the 15 years following.

Despite those struggles, Iowa has won their first game in each of their last two appearances in Indianapolis. They beat Wisconsin before losing in the semifinals last year against Illinois. They knocked off Illinois in the second round before eventually falling to Michigan in the 2019 quarterfinals.

There was no Big Ten Tournament in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Are the Hawkeyes a lock for March Madness?

Iowa is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, ESPN “Bracketology” founder Joe Lunardi told PlayIA last week. He said the Hawkeyes are “comfortably in” because “their metrics are off the chart.” On the eve of the Big Ten Tournament, Lunardi gives Iowa a No. 6 seed in March Madness.

“And the goal should be to at least hold serve and avoid the 8-9 games right? Nobody wants that because it oftentimes results in playing the 1-seed early. And that generally results in going home after the first weekend.”

Big Ten Tournament schedule

Wednesday (on BTN)

  • 5 p.m. — (13) Nebraska vs. (12) Northwestern
  • 7:30 p.m. — (14) Minnesota vs. (11) Penn State

Thursday (on BTN)

  • 10:30 a.m. — (9) Indiana vs. (8) Michigan
  • 1 p.m. — (5) Iowa vs. Nebraska/Northwestern
  • 5:30 p.m. — (10) Maryland vs. (7) Michigan State
  • 8 p.m. — (6) Ohio State vs. Minnesota/Penn St.

Friday (on BTN)

  • 10:30 a.m. — (1) Illinois vs. Indiana/Michigan
  • 1 p.m. — (4) Rutgers vs. Iowa or Nebraska/Northwestern
  • 5:30 p.m. — (2) Wisconsin vs. Maryland/Michigan State
  • 8 p.m. — (3) Purdue vs Ohio State or Minnesota/Penn St.

Saturday semifinals are noon and 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS. The championship game is at 2:30 p.m. Selection Sunday, also on CBS.

What to expect at the Big Ten Tournament

This year’s Hawkeyes are led by the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Keegan Murray, at 23.3 points per game. The silky-smooth sophomore averages a team-best 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks to go with an Iowa-high 55.4 percent shooting clip.

Sophomore guard Tony Perkins has provided a much-needed secondary spark in the last month, chipping in 14 points per game over his last four starts, aided by his first career double-double March 6 against the Illini, hauling in 12 rebounds to go with five assists. Perkins has hauled in 6.2 rebounds per game during that stretch while having drilled better than 42 percent of his shots from the floor in each of those four contests.

The Hawks should gain an extra boost from Patrick McCaffery this week, who sat out the regular-season finale due to an illness. The sophomore is averaging 10.5 points per game at a 43.8 percent clip to go with 3.8 rebounds in 27 games of action.

Photo by Michael Conroy / AP
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Brandon Hurley

Brandon Hurley is an award-winning editor of the Jefferson Herald in west-central Iowa. He's covered national sporting events such as NBA All-Star Weekend, the Big Ten football championship and the NBA Finals. He previously worked as sports editor at Jefferson Herald and the Boone News-Republican and wrote for the Dickinson County News in Spirit Lake, IA. Hurley possesses a double major in journalism and sports studies from the University of Iowa.

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