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Final season stretch crucial for Hawkeyes’ postseason success

BY JACOB SHEYKO | FEBRUARY 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball team is the only team in the Big Ten to make an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of the last six seasons.

Chances are, this season they will make that seven straight.

However, in those six appearances, the Hawkeyes have failed to make it further than the second round. This is not so much a knock on the Hawkeyes’ poor tournament play but rather who they’ve been matched up with in the previous years.

Aside from a 2011 first-round loss, in which Iowa was a six seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Hawkeyes have frequently began the tournament in the middle of the pack.

Of the last six seasons, Iowa has entered the NCAA Tournament as the eight-seed two times and as a nine-seed on three occasions.

As an eight-seed in the tournament, Iowa lost its first round matchup in 2009, and then in the following year, it lost to No. 1 seed Stanford in the second round.

Of the three times the Hawkeyes were a nine-seed, they lost their first-round games in 2008 and 2012. Then in 2013, they lost in the second round to another one-seeded team, Notre Dame.

The point is, if the Hawkeyes can find their way somewhere in-between a seven-seed and a five-seed, their chances of making their first sweet sixteen under head coach Lisa Bluder become a lot more probable.

Ideally, Iowa’s best chances at advancing deep into the tournament would be as either a five or six seed.

As a five-seed, the Hawkeyes wouldn’t face a top-three seeded team until the Sweet 16. But just how likely is it for Iowa to slide that far up?

Currently, the Hawkeyes are along the lines of a seven-seed. Their overall record is 19-6, and they are 27th in the nation in RPI — the metric that ranks teams based on their wins and losses and strength of schedule.

But there are still five games remaining in the Hawkeyes’ regular season, all winnable.

Factoring in that Iowa plays Illinois twice in those five games, the Hawkeyes remaining opponents combine for a record of 64-59 — a 52 percent winning percentage. Iowa is currently 7-4 in conference play, and those teams are maintaining a winning percentage of 66 percent.

Assuming the Hawkeyes win at least four of these five games, they will finish the regular season with an overall record of 23-7, and a Big Ten record of 11-5. In comparison, one of last year’s five-seeds — Louisville — ended the season with a similar résumé.

Add in that Iowa could very well make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament, and its chances of snagging a higher seed look better than ever.

Last season, Louisville made it to the national championship game as a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament, this is not to say that Iowa will follow in the Cardinals’ footsteps given the opportunity.

It’s not even to say that the Hawkeyes need that high of a seed to make a deep run.

But the Hawks should make it easier on themselves and finish this regular season strong.  


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