Good news: Iowa basketball's regular season is over.
Bad news: Iowa basketball's season is not yet over.
Despite Iowa finding new and excruciating ways to lose games on a regular basis over the last fortnight, it turns out that the Big Ten mandates that all league teams play in the conference tournament anyway. And even though they have done nothing at all to help their standing in the league since approximately January, results elsewhere over the last few weeks (namely, Ohio State and Minnesota losing) conspired to lock Iowa into the 6 seed in the conference at 10-10 in league play.
As a result, Iowa will play the winner of the 11-vs-14 game (Wednesday, 8 PM CT, BTN) on Thursday, March 14 in the final game of the day (tip time is approximately 8:30 PM CT on BTN). Playing in that 11/14 game are 11 seed Illinois (11-20 overall, 7-13 B1G) and 14 seed Northwestern (13-17 overall, 4-16 B1G). Here's the full bracket:
All three teams enter the Big Ten Tournament with negative levels of momentum. Iowa, of course, has lost four straight entering Thursday's contest and five of their last six. After an uptick about a month ago (Illinois won five of six between January 26 and February 14), Illinois ended the season losing two in a row and five of their last six. Their lone win in that drought? Northwestern. The Wildcats ended the year losing 11 of their last 12 games, though they do have the most recent win of this sadsack trio (an inexplicable 68-50 stomping of Ohio State last week). And yet one of these teams will be playing on Friday in the Big Ten Tournament! Feel the excitement!
Iowa went 2-0 against Northwestern this season and 1-0 against Illinois, although all of those wins came in the long ago times when Iowa was actually playing (mostly) well. Iowa posted an 83.0 eFG% against Illinois! Suffice to say, we should not expect any repeat performances this week. Especially not in the Big Ten Tournament, an environment that has more often brought pain and angst to Iowa hoops in recent years. Under Fran, Iowa is 3-8 in the Big Ten Tournament. In fact, given all the parallels between this team's late season meltdown and the similar faceplant in 2016, a loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament would really put the icing on the cake (Iowa lost 68-66 to the Illini in the BTT that year).
If Iowa wins on Thursday, they'll play let's not waste our time with this line of thought.
tl; dr: Iowa will play Illinois or Northwestern at approximately 8:30 PM CT on BTN on Thursday, March 14