The Box Score: Inside Iowa basketball statistics ahead of Big Ten tournament

BY TOM CLOS | MARCH 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team finished the regular season with its first 20-win campaign since 2005-06. At 9-9, the Hawkeyes ended up with a .500 or better record in Big Ten play for only the second time since 2003-04. All of this being said, the Black and Gold are perceived by most to be on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble thanks to several factors. A couple of bad losses combined with zero wins against ranked teams has hurt Iowa’s résumé, but the biggest detriment for the Hawkeyes is the quality of their nonconference opponents.

Nonconference strength of schedule: 308th in NCAA

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery scheduled a very light nonconference slate for his young team, hoping their confidence would be as high as possible heading into conference play. The Hawkeyes didn’t stumble much outside the Big Ten — they went 11-2 and actually picked up an impressive 80-71 win over Iowa State Dec. 7, 2012. The problem is that outside the victory over the Cyclones, there isn’t much left to be proud of with a win over a mediocre Northern Iowa squad as the next best accomplishment. Couple this with a very bad 95-79 loss at Virginia Tech on Nov. 27, and it’s clear Iowa’s nonconference schedule will be among the worst the tournament committee will see on Selection Sunday.

Average margin of victory over Northwestern this season: 17

The Hawkeyes will have to do a lot of damage (most likely at least get to the semifinals) in Chicago this weekend if they are to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The good news is that their first round opponent should be no problem. Iowa has owned Northwestern this season — the Hawkeyes crushed the Wildcats, 70-50, in Evanston, Ill., on Jan. 13 and 71-57 in Iowa City on Feb. 9. Junior guard Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White have owned Northwestern in this season. White posted 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the first meeting, and Marble put up 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in game two to complete the season sweep.

Record in Big Ten Tournament games held in Chicago: 7-6

Iowa has an all-time record of 14-12 in the Big Ten Tournament with exactly half of that record coming at the United Center in Chicago. The Windy City was the site of the Black and Gold’s magical run when they won four games in four days as the No. 6 seed to win the league title over Indiana in 2001. In four trips to Chicago, the Hawkeyes have been eliminated in the first round only once (2003) and have at least qualified for the tournament semifinals twice (2001 & 2005). But the last time the conference tournament was held at the United Center, in 2007, Iowa lost to Purdue 74-55 in the quarterfinals.

Number of years Since Iowa last qualified for the NCAA Tournament: 7

It’s well documented that it has been quite some time since Adam Haluska’s last-second desperation shot rimmed out in the Hawkeyes’ first-round collapse to Northwestern State. Seven years is a long time, and a lot of pressure is weighing on the current Iowa team to break the program’s seemingly endless stretch of futility. This season has done wonders for the Hawkeyes, and the winning tradition Fran McCaffery is trying to build in Iowa City is clearly in full bloom. Still, without an appearance at the Big Dance, the year will seem to have fallen short in some respect — the Hawkeyes haven’t been this close to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament since their last trip, in 2006. March Madness is clearly within reach for the Black and Gold, but it will take a special weekend in Chicago for them to finally get the tourney monkey off their backs in 2013.

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