Why Iowa is on back end of NCAA bubble

Schedule and lack of "quality wins" leave work to do this week

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It may be hard for some to grasp, including members of Iowa's men's basketball team.

How can you finish alone in sixth place in the Big Ten, considered the strongest conference in the nation this season, and not be in good shape for an NCAA tournament berth?

It boils down to two things, a lack of "quality wins" and a weak schedule.

Here is the nonconference portion:

That's not good. Five teams that are 304th or worse in the RPI as of Sunday morning, and five more that are no better than 168th.

At the time Virginia Tech beat Iowa in Blacksburg, Va., we thought the Hokies were pretty good. They weren't.

But there are too many teams that are just terrible. Howard, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, South Dakota, South Carolina State, Coppin State -- NG. Not Good.

OK, but doesn't the 18-game Big Ten rigors make up for that? Not enough, and that's because Iowa had about as "easy" a Big Ten slate as you could have had this season. The Hawkeyes only played Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois once. But they played all of the league's worst teams -- Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State -- twice. As you see from the following, the RPIs of those three are none too good.

This would be offset if Iowa had a win or two against one of the elite teams it has played. But it is a combined 0-5 against Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. It's "good wins" are against Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. All were home games.

So this is why the Hawkeyes have no laurels to rest on with the NCAA selection committee this week. Their mission is clear if they are to go to the big tournament: Beat Northwestern Thursday, beat the No. 3 seed of the Big Ten tourney on Friday, and see if they can be competitive after that.

If Iowa is eliminated in the Big Ten event before Saturday, it will need a lot of kindness from the committee and a lot of help from opponents of other bubble teams. That's a lot to ask.

However, should the Hawkeyes be relegated to the NIT, I will offer a personal guarantee of a first-round victory in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. One potential opponent is Charleston Southern (19-12). The Buccaneers were the top seed in the Big South tourney, but were beaten by Liberty (15-20) in Sunday's title game. By winning the regular-season title, Charleston Southern is assured an NIT spot. And a low seed.

Before Sunday's play, Charleston Southern's RPI was 181.


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