Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can the Hawkeyes make a run in the Big Ten Tourney?

There are doubters, disbelievers, and then there are a few who trust in Todd Lickliter's Iowa Hawkeyes. Either way, the UI student body will be watching when the Hawkeyes take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament today at 1:30 p.m.

They may be 15-16 overall with a 5-13 Big Ten Conference record and the 10th seed, but that won't keep the Hawkeyes from believing they can make a run. After all they have come down to the wire with every Big Ten team they have faced.

“I have season tickets and despite their record, I have been really impressed with the way Iowa has played this year,” UI senior Sarah Nordquist said. “I loved watching them play and think they have shown a lot of heart this year.”

The Big Ten has been filled with parody this season, so why not make the tournament up for grabs? Forget the records, forget the seedings, whoever wins the Big Ten Tournament gets an automatic invite to the NCAA Tournament.

All 11 seeds will be fighting for their post-season lives. Teams like Iowa can be very dangerous, because they have nothing to lose. Their season is supposed to end after a first-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament right? Well it is all up to the Hawkeyes to determine their fate and for guys like senior Cyrus Tate, it is their last chance for the post-season.

UI students believe that Michigan State is the class of the Big Ten but they believe it is anybodies tournament to win this year.

So why can't Iowa win it? Look at their last six games (after Jake Kelly took over for injured point guard Jeff Peterson). They came down to the wire with all six teams. They have also won all three of the overtime games they have played. Two of the overtime games they shot 100 percent from the field.

Their last six games:

vs. Purdue, Lost 49-45
vs. Michigan, won in overtime, 70-60
@ Michigan State, lost 62-54
@ Northwestern, lost 55-49
vs. Ohio State, lost 60-58 (Jermain Davis' three-point attempt rimmed out as time expired)
vs. Penn State, won 75-67 in double overtime

“They are too inexperienced and streaky to win a game,” UI senior Matt Rome said. “I like what Jake Kelly has done in the last six games, taking over for Jeff Peterson. They have been in a lot of ball games but just can’t seem to get over the hump.”

The Hawkeyes have one added advantage; Jake Kelly, who has been one of the hottest players in the Big Ten since taking over at point guard, is from Indiana and has played many times inside the Conseco Fieldhouse. He undoubtedly will have his fans there and could have a huge Big Ten Tournament.

It could be quite interesting if the Hawkeyes, way below .500 in the Big Ten, make it to the NCAA Tournament. It would be a fitting end to the Big Ten parody of 2008-09 season.

“The Hawkeyes may not have won many Big Ten games this season, but they are a lot of fun to watch,” UI junior Scott Crowley said. “I would give us a shot to win the Big Ten Tournament this season. I really think everyone except Indiana has a shot at winning the tournament this year.”

They set their sights on Michigan, who they have already beat this season. Michigan has come on of late and is setting their sights on the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA selection committee will not look favorably on a team that lost to the Hawkeyes twice and had a first-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament. It has all the makings and drama of a first-round NCAA March Madness game and will be an interesting battle to say the least.

“We beat Michigan in overtime a few games ago,” UI junior Kevin Judge said. “I don’t see us beating them again because Michigan has hopes of making it to the (NCAA) tourney and needs to win at least one or two games to raise them above the bubble teams. I think it will be a close game but we’ll come up on the short end.”

I think we have a good chance of doing some damage or at least mixing things up a bit," UI sophomore Ryan Rockaforte said. "If we can keep things close with Michigan, we should be in good shape. We have been coming on strong the past few weeks, so hopefully it will keep going."

Bubba story: Sarah Nordquist, Scott Crowley, Dan Lewis, Matt Rome, Ryan Rockaforte, Kevin Judge, Rich Zawistowski.

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