Iowa Basketball: Game-By-Game Prediction For Rest Of Season

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A prediction for each game left on Iowa basketball’s 2016-17 schedule.

It might not seem like it but Iowa basketball is still in the running for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. At 14-10 on the year and 6-5 in conference play, Iowa is not far off from Michigan State and Michigan who is an eight and one of the first eight teams out, respectively, according to Joe Lunardi’s latest ESPN Bracketology.

The Hawkeyes beat Michigan earlier in the year and are 1.5 games better in conference play than the Wolverines. Although, Michigan is 0.5 games better overall than the Hawkeyes right now.

While Iowa will play Michigan State on Saturday in one of the most crucial games of the season, the Hawkeyes are just 0.5 games behind the Spartans in conference play and overall.

Even though there is more than just records when figuring out who will make the NCAA Tournament, it’s not crazy to think Iowa still has a small chance of making it to their fourth straight Tournament without winning the Big Ten tournament.

With seven Big Ten teams currently in the Tournament, per Joe Lunardi, the Hawkeyes have a chance to sneak in if they keep winning. They benefitted from a fairly easy three-game stretch to get them over .500 in conference play, but now they’ll need to win a couple of big road games to help boost their résumé.

Here’s a look at how Iowa will do the rest of the season.

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February 8 – February 18

@Minnesota Golden Gophers: The Gophers started the season as one of the biggest surprises in the nation but have gone just 1-5 in the past six games. Being at home should help Minnesota, but the Gophers are 1-3 at home in conference play. Their three home losses only came by 10 points, though.

Iowa is playing really well on both ends of the floor right now, too. If they can find a way to slow down freshman Amir Coffey, the Hawkeyes might have enough firepower to win in Minneapolis. One team is playing as well as they have all season and one just ended a five-game losing streak. Both teams need the win, but Iowa finally proving they can win on the road is the difference maker.

Prediction: Win (15-10, 7-5 B10)

@Michigan State Spartans: This game could decide the season for Iowa, or at least give them a lot of leverage. Even though Michigan State is having a down year, it would still go down as a quality win because of their name. Besides, the Spartans have started to play better as of late with back-to-back wins over Michigan and Nebraska.

This will be a game filled with star freshmen. Iowa stopping Michigan State’s athleticism, particularly in Miles Bridges, will be interesting to watch. Bridges is a dynamic player that Iowa has yet to face this season, therefore Bridges could be in for a huge game if Iowa doesn’t keep him out of the lane.

That said, Michigan State is starting to find a rhythm this season and Tom Izzo knows his team will need this win. Barring a loss to Michigan on Tuesday, Michigan State will enter the game on a three-game winning streak. Plus, winning in East Lansing is never an easy task.

Prediction: Loss (15-11, 7-6 B10)

Illinois Fighting Illini: Iowa is a much different team than a couple of weeks ago when they lost to Illinois. They seemingly found an identity on offense and are playing better defense, as they held each of their last three opponents to 72 points or fewer. On the other hand, Illinois has lost their last three games, including twice at home.

Illinois beat a struggling Iowa team by 12 last time, plus Peter Jok was dealing with a back injury. Expect Jok to have a big game and have a more defined role in Iowa’s new offensive game plan. Besides, Iowa is 3-0 when facing a team for the second time this season — wins over Purdue, Nebraska and Rutgers. Also, Iowa is 5-1 at home in conference play.

Prediction: Win (16-11, 8-6 B10)

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February 21 – March 5

Indiana Hoosiers: Indiana has struggled this season, especially since the loss of OG Anunoby. The Hoosiers are just 1-3 in their past four games with their lone win coming against Penn State in triple overtime. The Hoosiers are hanging onto an NCAA Tournament berth for a dear life but need to quickly find an identity.

Indiana has the talent in Thomas Bryant to hurt Iowa in the paint and James Blackmon Jr to hurt Iowa on the perimeter. That said, Indiana hasn’t scored more than 60 points in their past three regulation games. In fact, they only shot 28.6 percent from three against Penn State and lost the turnover battle 23-16.

If Indiana is able to right the ship by the time they come to Iowa City, they have enough talent to beat Iowa. Although, right now, the Hoosiers are quickly on a downward spiral with no end in sight, especially against a good home team like Iowa.

Prediction: Win (17-11, 9-6 B10)

@Maryland Terrapins: Maryland is ranked but it’s still unknown how good they are. They lost to Purdue this past weekend and have one of the weakest schedules in the conference. Still, Maryland is 20-3 on the year and beat Iowa 84-76 in Iowa City earlier in the year. Seeing how they play against Ohio State and Minnesota for a second time will be telling of Iowa’s chances at Maryland.

Iowa has proven to be good the second time they play a team, plus Maryland barely beat the Hawkeyes the first time, as Iowa held a late game lead multiple times. That said, it’s unknown how Iowa will handle playing in a tough environment in a game they have to win.

If Ohio State and Minnesota play Maryland well in their second matchup, the Terrapins could potentially enter the game on a four game losing streak with road games against Northwestern and Wisconsin also scheduled. Although, winning on the road against a ranked team isn’t easy.

Prediction: Loss (17-12, 9-7 B10)

@Wisconsin Badgers: The Wisconsin Badgers easily look like the best team in the Big Ten. Handing them their second conference loss of the season won’t be easy, especially in Madison. Wisconsin looks like a matchup nightmare for Iowa and the rest of the Big Ten.

Bronson Koenig is one of the best point guards in the conference while they have big men in Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ that Iowa’s frontcourt doesn’t matchup well against. Happ is arguably the best back to the basket player in the nation, and he’ll be licking his lips at the sight of Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl‘s post defense.

Prediction: Loss (17-13, 9-8 B10)

Penn State Nittany Lions: Senior day against one of the worst teams in the conference. It could end up being a huge disappointment if the Hawkeyes get caught up in the excitement, but with only a couple of seniors on the team, Iowa should be able to avoid a meltdown to the Nittany Lions.

Penn State does have quality wins in Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois this year, but the Nittany Lions will likely be under .500 at this point and be more focused on winning a couple of games in the Big Ten tournament.

Prediction: Win (18-13, 10-8 B10)

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Resume (18-13, 10-8 B10)

Quality Wins: Iowa State, Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana

Bad Losses: Omaha, Nebraska (2OT)

Iowa picks up a couple of key wins in Minnesota and Indiana while avoiding disaster to end the season. That said, even with a 10-8 conference record that could put them top five in the Big Ten, 18-13 wouldn’t be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament unless they won a couple of games in the Big Ten tournament.

Last season, the four play-in teams had records of 24-8, 20-11, 22-12 and 19-13. It’s a good sign that Vanderbilt made it as a 13-loss team, as Iowa would be 19-14 if they won just one game in the Big Ten tournament, but Vanderbilt didn’t have bad losses like Omaha and Nebraska.

Despite all the good wins Iowa could potentially have at the end of the season, those losses could be the difference. Besides the fact Iowa could be 20-11 just like last season, most bubble teams won’t have a loss to a 13-11 mid-major from the Summit Conference.

If Iowa upsets Michigan State, Maryland or Wisconsin, they would have a much stronger case of making the Tournament with three wins over ranked teams.

Although, beating teams like Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana will be extremely important down the stretch as it shows they can beat bubble teams. Winning those types of games has been hard for Iowa, though.

Iowa is already starting to gain respect in the conference, as they’re currently in sixth place. The next few weeks will really determine whether this is a tournament caliber team or not.

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