Schwartz: 10 Sentences and an NCAA Berth

February 3, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

We kept waiting and waiting Friday night for Michigan to make their move, to overcome whatever plagued their shooting in the first half against Iowa and mount their comeback. But every time they got close, the Hawkeyes stiff-armed them back into a double-digit deficit. Here are 10 sentences about what that win meant for Iowa.

1. OK, the Hawkeyes are in the NCAA Tournament (with a caveat).

2. Iowa’s 74-59 win Friday night over No. 5 Michigan, coupled with wins earlier this season over Oregon and Iowa State, put them solidly in the NCAA Tournament field of 64; whatever seed they happened to get is TBD and not worth worrying about given the arbitrary nature of the NCAA selection committee.

3. So here’s the caveat: Iowa is in so long as nothing goes haywire between now and the end of the season, and by haywire I mean one of two things.

4. First, Michigan has to continue to be good, they can’t have one of these random midseason collapses where they go from undefeated and the best team and the country, to losing to Wisconsin, to then losing to Iowa, and the next thing you know they’ve lost 9-of-10 and are staring down a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

5. Second, the Hawkeyes have to continue on their current trajectory—they can’t bottom out, slip into some kind of late-season collapse.

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6. This is the gift that Iowa bought itself with the Michigan win: the selection committee always wants that signature win for at-large teams that they’ll need to place somewhere in the 6-to-11 seed range, and Iowa, so long as Michigan keeps doing its part by staying atop the Big Ten, now has that signature win.

7. Which means that Iowa no longer has to stress about the regular-season’s final stretch; they’re a better-than-average Big Ten team, and as long as they continue to be better than average, their dance card will get punched in March.

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8. The Hawkeyes can lose to Wisconsin and Ohio State and Indiana but beat Rutgers, Nebraska, and Northwestern and still get in because they beat Michigan, and going slightly above .500 the rest of the way will put them in that 6-7th-place Big Ten range, which is good enough.

9. That’s not to say they WILL lose to those teams, nor am I saying fans would be OK with them losing all of those games, but I am saying that there’s breathing room, that we as fans don’t have to sweat out the final month of the regular season terrified that every loss might be the one that keeps Iowa out of the NCAA Tournament.

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10. The last nine regular-season games can be enjoyed, stress free-ish, and as long as they keep their heads above water and don’t do anything drastic like go one-and-done in the Big Ten Tournament, you’ll see them in your brackets come Selection Sunday.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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