An old friend will come to town Thursday when Nebraska travels to No. 5 Iowa for a game with major postseason implications.
The Hawkeyes (18-7, 12-6) are trying to secure a top-four spot in the conference standings, which earns a double-bye in the conference tournament next week. A win also keeps Iowa on the NCAA Selection Committee’s radar for a No. 1 seed in March Madness.
Nebraska vs. Iowa odds
Rescheduled game adds to Iowa sports betting options
The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 24, but the Cornhuskers needed a delay due to health and safety protocols. Altogether, Nebraska called off five games in the year’s first month. At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey told reporters:
“I think you have to give a lot of credit to (Nebraska coach) Fred (Hoiberg). When he got sick, when they first paused, he called me to tell me. He said, ‘we’re going to make up the games. We’re all systems go. We’ll get better.’ You have to give them credit. Not only have they done that, they played well.”
Nebraska is coming off back-to-back wins over teams with NCAA Tournament hopes. The Cornhuskers hurt Minnesota‘s bid with a 78-74 win Saturday. Rutgers fell in Lincoln by a 72-51 score on Monday. The results have caught McCaffrey’s attention:
“They’re really sharing the ball, making really good decisions, playing very unselfishly I think. You look at the last six or seven games, they’ve played really well. Even before that, sometimes you look at a team’s record and you think, They lost a bunch of games in a row. But every game, they’re right there. You kind of see it coming; they were going to win some.”
Defense led Iowa turnaround
Watch over/under totals for Thursday’s game because reporters are asking McCaffrey more questions about his team’s improved defense at press availabilities. Ohio State scored 89 points in a Feb. 4 road win over Iowa. The Hawkeyes held the same Buckeye team to 57 points in Sunday’s win at Columbus:
“It’s not complicated, it really isn’t. You have to get down and guard the ball off the dribble, you got to get back, you got to rebound. It’s all connected that way. When you only give up two offensive rebounds to Ohio State, a very good offensive rebounding team, that’s a big statement — how we defend ball screens, doing a much better job there. This stuff is hard to guard when you have other actions going on. I think our guys have really locked into personnel, scouting, really committed to playing defense on all levels, which is obviously transition, half-court, regardless of which defense.”
Sportsbooks shine spotlight on Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes have won five of six, including three wins over top 25 foes. Iowa has climbed back to No. 5 in Monday’s Associated Press top 25 poll. You have to go back to March 5, 1956, to find the last time Iowa was ranked this high in the AP Poll.
Bracketologist Joe Lunardi at ESPN has Iowa as the No. 2 seed in Michigan’s bracket, while Jerry Palm at CBS put Iowa as the 2 seed in Gonzaga’s bracket in the most recent bracket projections. The Hawkeyes and Bulldogs squared off Dec 19 in Sioux Falls, SD, with Gonzaga coming away with a 99-88 win. The Zags still haven’t lost. Michigan blasted the Hawkeyes 79-57 on Feb. 25.
The FanDuel sportsbook app calls for a Final Four of Gonzaga (+250), Baylor (+330), Michigan (+420) and Illinois (+1200) based on moneylines to win the national championship. Villanova follows at +1500 while Iowa, Houston and Ohio State share the sixth spot at +1800 as of Tuesday.
BetMGM odds put Gonzaga and Baylor as co-favorites at +300. Michigan is close behind at +400, while Illinois is +1100. Iowa and Ohio State have the fifth-best odds at +1400.