IOWA HAWKEYES vs.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
|TIME||3:00 pm CT|
|WHERE||Value City Arena, Columbus|
|STREAM||CBS All Access|
|LINE||Ohio State -3|
|KENPOM||Ohio State -2|
TALE OF THE TAPE
|125.2 (2nd)||OFF. EFF.||124.1 (3rd)|
|97.0 (81st)||DEF. EFF.||97.4 (87th)|
|55.0 (29th)||eFG%||53.6 (47th)|
In the blink of an eye, Iowa went from playing for a shot at the conference regular season title to a play-in game for a double-bye in the conference tournament. Of course, it's the Big Ten in 2021, so that play-in game for a conference tournament top-four seed is on the road against an NCAA number 1 seed. CBS has the call this afternoon.
How did this happen? Michigan is on an unholy tear through the conference at the moment, and Illinois has righted the ship for long enough to lock in a 12-6 record at worst. Ohio State and Iowa should take the final two double-byes in a perfect world, except that flipping Purdue is out there. The Boilers lost their single games against Michigan, Iowa and Illinois, but they only had one against Michigan, Iowa and Illinois (and Wisconsin, coming up Tuesday) and won both against Ohio State. Throw in a 19-game conference schedule due to a cancelation and, just like that, Purdue is two wins away from a double-bye, with Iowa and OSU playing for the fourth spot.
Ohio State is also playing for its top seed in the Big Dance. After reeling off eight wins in a row through late January and early February, the Buckeyes have suddenly looked vulnerable. They lost to Michigan at home last weekend; no shame in that. But a midweek loss at Michigan State is another matter entirely, even with Sparty trying to simply clobber its way into the NCAA Tournament. The other options for a top seed aren't great, and the Buckeyes get Illinois next Saturday in what could be a top-seed play-in game, but a win over Iowa certainly helps their case.
The Buckeyes won the first meeting in a fashion familiar to Iowa fans this year: 14/32 shooting from three, four players in double figures and eleven offensive rebounds. Iowa didn't have C.J. Fredrick, which they will Sunday. Iowa had 18 points from Jack Nunge, which it won't Sunday. How those change a game where the teams share virtually the same statistical profile -- deadly efficiency on offense, defense largely optional -- is anyone's guess.
But with both teams coming off road losses and so much on the line, the urgency of the moment might matter most. Both teams are on unsteady ground for NCAA seeding, both could use the double-bye, and neither wants to fall victim to a late-season fade. Someone is going to be in full-on panic mode Sunday night. Let's hope it's not Iowa.