Almost every NCAA expert thinks the Hawkeyes have to win two games at the Big Ten tournament to get into the NCAA tournament. Step number one comes on Thursday night when Iowa opens with Northwestern. The Hawks beat the Wildcats by 20 and by 14 in the regular season.
Iowa has won six of their last eight games to put themselves on the NCAA "bubble". Four of those wins were by double digits.
The Big Ten is number-1 in the Sagarin ratings and has five teams in the Top 25, and four in the top 10. With a 9-9 conference record and 20 wins overall, coach Fran McCaffery thinks Iowa's resume is solid.
"We don't have any bad losses really. We have some really good wins," said Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffery. "We've been consistent so I think from that standpoint, I'm very happy with what we've done. I'm very comfortable that we're under serious consideration for one of those bids."
Iowa will be helped by the likely return of point guard Mike Gesell. The freshman from South Sioux City started the first 27 games but has missed the last four game with a stress reaction in his foot.
Gesell says it's not broken, but compared the pain to being stabbed. He's eager to get back on the floor.
"Getting to play in the United Center, I just want what's best for our team and I just want to help this team out any way I can," said Gesell.
"They (Northwestern) got that offense that nobody else really runs in our conference," said Aaron White. "You just got to watch a lot of tape and game plan for it. They're playing well so I think we'll be locked in."
Iowa, the sixth seed, plays at 8 o'clock on Thursday. Northwestern is the 11-seed with a 13-18 record.
Right before Iowa, tenth-seeded Nebraska will play seventh seeded Purdue at 5:30. Both games are on ESPN 2.
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