We're coming to the end of the basketball regular season, which means all-conference awards are right around the corner. Three spots on the Big Ten's first team look like locks: Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ, Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, and Iowa guard Peter Jok. After all, Jok leads the league in scoring despite missing a chunk of the conference season with a back injury, and he's carried a team full of freshmen to a respectable .500 record in the conference.
Or, at least, it makes sense on paper.
Sub Nate Mason and Miles Bridges for Peter Jok and Malcolm Hill, and we're good. pic.twitter.com/deICERHolh— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) February 27, 2017
That's BTN's Brent Yarina replacing Jok with either Minnesota's Nate Mason or Michigan State's Miles Bridges. Neither of those would be justifiable on the numbers alone; Jok has more than four points per game more than Bridges, two fewer rebounds and an extra half-assist, and Jok's numbers swamp those of Mason. But Yarina's omission of both Jok and Hill (who is fifth in the league in scoring) and failure to mention Taj Webster (who is fourth) show he's relying less on individual performance than conference record. And while that's fine, it also fails to justify the inclusion of Mason, as Minnesota's lead over Iowa is exclusively due to this:
Yarina's not all: KenPom's all-Big Ten team is Swanigan, Happ, Malcom Hill, Melo Trimble and Michigan's Derrick Walton, though that is in large part due to Jok's injury. So save your outrage. You might need it.
AWARDS SEASON, PART 2
Meanwhile, the women's basketball regular season came to an end over the weekend, and while Iowa had an up-and-down campaign that finished 8-8 in the Big Ten, it was hardly shut out for conference awards.
Three University of Iowa women's basketball student-athletes -- sophomore Megan Gustafson, senior Ally Disterhoft, and freshman Kathleen Doyle -- have earned All-Big Ten accolades, the league office announced Monday afternoon. Gustafson garnered first team recognition by the coaches and media, Disterhoft notched first team honors from the coaches and second team accolades from the media, and Doyle was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Senior Hailey Schneden was selected as Iowa's Sportsmanship Award honoree.
Gustafson and Disterhoff combined for 34.4 points per game, and Gustafson was third in the conference in rebounding. Doyle averaged just under 9 points per game, a solid performance for a freshman on a team that had two prolific scorers at the top. It was a rebuilding year for the women's program, but the step back was minimal and the future looks bright.
Iowa basketball isn't out of the NCAA Tournament picture yet. Obviously, a Big Ten Tournament win would do the job, but Jon Miller thinks that's not the only ride to the Big Dance.
So Iowa would need to win at least two games in the Big Ten tournament to even have a shot at ‘The Bubble.’ Given the lack of ranked teams in their path, it might take at least three.
Is it possible? Yes, this is a path that gives Iowa a shot…it would mean six-game winning streak to end the year before a possible loss in the Big Ten Tournament semi’s…and that would give Iowa a record of 20-14, which would mean Hawkeye fans could tune in on Selection Sunday with butterflies in their stomaches and a chance at seeing Iowa’s name called for a fourth straight NCAA tournament.
I'm not nearly this optimistic. For one, the Hawkeyes' RPI is miles from what one would expect from an NCAA at-large team. As of last night, Iowa is 94th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten. And while that could improve incrementally with a win over Wisconsin and a couple of tournament wins, it would need to jump almost 50 places to get Iowa into typical bubble territory. Second, even if RPI is devalued this year, it's not like Iowa's other metrics are great. The Hawkeyes are 71st in Kenpom, eighth in a Big Ten that's not getting eight teams into the field.
Is Iowa playing its best basketball of the year at the right time? That seems obvious. But is that enough to overcome the rest of the season? Absent four wins in four days next weekend, probably not...
But that doesn't mean we're not going to the postseason! Bracket Matrix has Iowa as a 7 seed in a ridiculously-stacked NIT (which only reiterates how far the Hawkeyes are from the NCAA field). But being at the low end of the NIT field presents some serious problems. For one, the bottom teams are always shuffled due to tournament wins and losses. For another, the NIT offers automatic bids to conference regular season champions that lose their conference tournaments and don't make the NCAA field, which puts anyone on a 7 or 8 line in serious jeopardy of being bumped.
Let's just win the next six and stop worrying about it, then win six more. Sound good?
ODDS & ENDS
Land of 10 has a solid article on new Iowa wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland and his route into college coaching. A lot of Jerry Kill in there. And yes, I still think we're hiring Tracy Claeys in April and going full-on Kill Bill on Minnesota this fall.
Jarrod Uthoff didn't get drafted in large part because he wouldn't agree to be stashed in the D-League. But that's where he ended up anyway, where he's playing with Adam Woodbury and doing Jarrod Uthoff things for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Yes, the guy keeps calling him "Jarad". No, I don't know why.
Dodgeball Rule Number 1: Don't play dodgeball against a softball pitcher. Dodgeball Rule Number 2: Follow Rule Number 1.