We're into the final week of the Big Ten regular season, which means it's time to start thinking about the postseason as well. Iowa's NCAA and NIT fates are very uncertain at the moment, but the Hawkeyes are guaranteed at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament after hosting Penn State on Senior Day next Sunday. Everyone gets into the Big Ten Tournament after all -- even Rutgers. Iowa's path to an NCAA or NIT bid will likely depend on what they do in the Big Ten Tournament and that starts with what seed they get.
So what seed could Iowa get in the Big Ten Tournament? Well, that depends. Iowa's looking at a pretty wide range of potential seeds, from as high as #5 to as low as #11. Right now Iowa is 8-8 and alone in 8th place in the Big Ten standings. But there are 10 (!) other teams within two games of them in the standings, so there are a lot of different directions for things to go over the next week. There's an incredible amount of bunching in the Big Ten this year and that
parity mediocrity makes it difficult to project seeds. But let's give it a shot.
Two wins: Iowa 10-8 Big Ten
If Iowa sweeps their games this week (at Wisconsin, home to Penn State), they'll finish at 10-8 in the Big Ten. The problem is that it's going to be hard to move up unless the teams ahead of them lose out and based on the schedule that doesn't seem too likely. Maryland has games left against Rutgers (away) and Michigan State (home), Michigan State has games left against Illinois (away) and Maryland (away), and Minnesota has games left against Nebraska (home) and Wisconsin (away). MSU has two road games left, but they've also been one of the hotter Big Ten teams lately. Minnesota has been the hottest Big Ten team of late and they get a home game against Nebraska. Maryland has been struggling, but they get to play Rutgers. Those teams only need to win once to finish with 11 wins, meaning Iowa can't catch them.
Northwestern is reeling and has two difficult games left, albeit both at home, while Michigan has been surging and has two winnable games left, albeit both on the road. Iowa would win a tiebreaker with Michigan, but they would lose a tiebreaker with Northwestern. A 10-8 Iowa is likely finishing with a seed in the 7-8 range.
One win: Iowa 9-9 Big Ten
This is the most likely outcome for Iowa, given that one of their remaining games is a very challenging-looking trip to the Kohl Center to play Wisconsin, but it's also one that doesn't change much for them in terms of seeding. At 9-9 Iowa's odds of jumping ahead of any of the teams in front of them are pretty meager (it could only happen if Michigan lost its final two games). They'd also be at risk of getting jumped themselves, as Illinois is at 7-9 right now and ends with games against Michigan State (home) and Rutgers (away). They obviously hold the tiebreaker over Iowa after beating Iowa in both league games this year. A 9-9 Iowa is probably finishing with the 8th or 9th seed.
Zero wins: Iowa 8-10 Big Ten
The worst case scenario for Iowa is this one, where Iowa loses at Wisconsin and also loses to Penn State on Senior Day on Sunday. That would drop Iowa to 8-10 overall and leave them teetering near the mess of teams near the bottom of the league. An 8-10 record is also the only way Iowa could end up with the #11 seed, which would mean playing on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday (Do. Not. Want.). An 8-10 Iowa is likely finishing with the 9th or 10th seed.
The fine MSU blog folks at The Only Colors have a post up with some tables and charts that break down all the possibilities (for Iowa and everyone else), so go give them a look. Their table gives Iowa the best odds of finishing with the 8th (33.6%) or 9th (36.3%) seed. Their next best odds are the 7th (15.7%) and 10th (12.9%) seeds. So, really, they're looking at a seed right around what they're at now.
The #8 and #9 seeds play each other in the first game of the day on Thursday of the Big Ten Tournament (11 AM CT, BTN). The winner of that game plays the #1 seed in the first game of the day on Friday (11 AM CT, ESPN). Iowa's most likely opponent in the 8/9 game would be Illinois, followed by Michigan. Both have turned things around of late -- Michigan has won five of their last six and Illinois has won four of their last five -- so they would be tricky outs in the first round. If Iowa gets past them, Purdue is far and away the most likely team to be the #1 seed this year. Iowa had very mixed success against them, getting torched in West Lafayette and beating them in Iowa City.
Iowa is likely going to need to string together some wins in the Big Ten Tournament in order to keep playing in a tournament beyond the Big Ten Tourney. The most likely match-ups don't look like the easiest for Iowa, but the Big Ten is such a crapshoot this year that there really any terrifying match-ups, either. Iowa is 3-4 (pending Thursday's game against Wisconsin) versus teams ahead of them in the Big Ten standings this year and that includes a loss against Minnesota that involved some, ah, controversial officiating decisions. (That 3-4 record also includes three bad losses, as Purdue, Northwestern, and Michigan State all kind of pasted Iowa.) If the shots start falling for Iowa in D.C., who knows how far they could go in the nation's capital? For now, let's see how they fare in Badgerland on Thursday.