The regular season for Big Ten women's basketball is done and dusted now, which means that it's time for the postseason. First up: the Big Ten Tournament, running this Wednesday-Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Iowa will be a #5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play their first game on Thursday at approximately 1:30 PM CT, against the winner of Wednesday's Wisconsin-Northwestern game (the #12 vs #13 game). The full bracket is below:
Despite finishing the season as the Big Ten's hottest team (winners of seven in a row entering this week's Big Ten Tournament), Iowa wasn't able to secure a top-four finish and one of the coveted double-byes in the tournament. Iowa finished at 11-5 in Big Ten play, good for a three-way tie with Minnesota and Nebraska. Unfortunately, as Braydon pointed out yesterday, the tiebreakers did not favor Iowa with those teams. Iowa split two games with Minnesota this year, but got swept by Nebraska. After yesterday's emphatic win over Indiana, Iowa was in the fourth seed for the Big Ten Tournament, but to hold onto that spot they needed Minnesota to lose to Illinois today. That didn't happen. Turns out that needing a win from a team that's 0-15 in the Big Ten is a bit of a problem.
A double-bye into the quarterfinals would have been great news for an Iowa team that's not terribly deep, but so it goes. Iowa still has a pretty good set-up with this bracket. They'll face the winner of Wednesday's Wisconsin-Northwestern game. Northwestern went 11-19 overall and 4-12 in the Big Ten; Iowa beat them 70-61 in their lone regular season meeting a few weeks ago. Wisconsin went 9-20 overall and 2-14 in the Big Ten; Iowa eked out a 56-46 win in Madison early in league play and trounced them 88-61 a week ago. So they should have plenty of confidence against whoever they face on Thursday.
If Iowa wins that game, they'll take on Minnesota, the #4 seed, on Friday afternoon (approximately 1:30 PM CT again). As noted before, Iowa split the season series with Minnesota, losing 77-72 in Minneapolis earlier in the season and beating them 92-84 in Iowa City earlier in their current 7-game winning streak. Minnesota and Iowa have looked pretty evenly matched in their previous meetings this season, so it's hard to guess how a rubber match might go. The Gophers have a balanced attack (four players scoring in double figures), led by Kenisha Bell (19.4 ppg on 42% shooting) and Carlie Wagner (18.2 ppg on 33% shooting).
Should Iowa get by the Gophers and they'll likely face #1 seed Ohio State in the semifinals on Saturday (assuming the Buckeyes don't get upset by #8 seed Purdue or #9 seed Rutgers). The Buckeyes are formidable, as evidenced by their 24-6 overall record, and league-winning 13-3 mark in conference play, but Iowa did beat them once earlier this season, 103-89, in what was probably their finest performance of the season. It may be a lot to ask them to repeat that in the Big Ten Tournament, but at least we know it's possible. The bottom half of the bracket features #2 seed Maryland, who beat Iowa 80-64 earlier this season and who the Hawkeyes have failed to beat since the Terps joined the Big Ten, and #3 seed Nebraska, who beat Iowa 74-65 in Lincoln and 92-74 in Iowa City. Minnesota and Ohio State won't be easy opponent, but based on this season's results, they appear to be more favorable match-ups for Iowa.
Iowa will play Wisconsin/Northwestern at approximately 1:30 PM CT on Thursday, March 1. The game will be streamed on BTN2Go, but not aired on BTN proper due to the men's tournament. The game may be televised by a regional sports network (aka Fox Sports North, CSN Chicago, etc.), so check your local listings.