IOWA CITY, Iowa - The last time Iowa Basketball reached the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, George W. Bush was president and Luka Garza was seven years old. The year was 2006.
The Hawkeyes and star center Garza are hoping to end the drought in Indianapolis this week. They tip off action Friday night against the winner of Thursday's Wisconsin-Penn State game.
Iowa earned the tournament's No. 3 seed behind No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Illinois. The Hawkeyes received a Big Ten Tournament double-bye for finishing among the top four of the regular-season standings with a 14-6 mark.
Fifth-ranked Iowa twice defeated sixth-seeded Wisconsin this season, the last victory coming in Sunday's regular-season finale. It took down No. 11 seed Penn State, 74-68, Feb. 21 at home in a game in which Garza broke the school's all-time scoring record.
The Hawkeyes came into last year's league event as the fifth seed and were scheduled to play No. 12 Minnesota on March 12. That game and the rest of the college basketball season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A year to the day when the country shut down, Iowa begins its quest for a special postseason. It likely sits as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, an event in which it hasn't reached the second weekend, also known as the Sweet 16, since 1999.
The Hawkeyes could take the court Friday without their second-leading scorer, Joe Wieskamp, who wore a walking boot after twisting his right ankle Sunday against Wisconsin. Coach Fran McCaffery listed his junior sharpshooter as "day-to-day" when he spoke to the media on Tuesday. Wieskamp did not practice Monday but did show up in some workout photos on Thursday.
Starting guard CJ Fredrick is dealing with plantar fasciitis that has lingered since midseason. His efficiency plays a big role in Iowa's success and his absences due to injury have been noticeable.
Fredrick logged 30 minutes against Wisconsin Sunday after being limited to eight minutes in last week's win against Nebraska. He's handed out 48 assists with just six turnovers and shot 49.2 percent on three-point attempts this season.
The Hawkeyes have done their best to make up for the loss of backup big man Jack Nunge, who suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. McCaffery has leaned more on freshman Keegan Murray (7.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG) since Nunge went down. Fellow reserves Joe Toussaint and Patrick McCaffery also have picked up more time.
Garza (23.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) was named Big Ten Player of the Year for a second consecutive season earlier this week. Starting point guard Jordan Bohannon (10.5 PPG, 4.5 APG) broke the school's all-time assist record this winter after claiming the program's career three-point mark as a junior.
Glue guy Connor McCaffery has handed out 101 assists against just 25 turnovers, which leads to a national best 4.04 in assist-to-turnover ratio. He's proven to be one of the country's top post feeders, which helps set up Garza for success.
Should Iowa win on Friday, it would meet the survivor of Friday's Illinois-Rutgers/Indiana contest in Saturday's semis. The championship game is Sunday, which also is when the NCAA Tournament bracket will be released.