Iowa’s undone again by defense in loss to Indiana; Marquette making a quiet late run at an at-large bid
You could try to uncover the perfect stat or draw just the right analogy to show why Iowa’s defense may ultimately end up holding this team back in its first NCAA Tournament since the 2005-06 season. Or you could just get right to the point and say that it gave up 93 points in a loss to Indiana on Thursday night, a third straight misstep.
The Hoosiers aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. They rank 151st in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. Iowa made them look like a Duke-Creighton hybrid, as the Hoosiers shot 51.7 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three in the win, led by Will Sheehey’s career-best 30 points.
Iowa was already slipping in the brackets before this week started. The Hawkeyes didn’t have a bad loss to their name, but they were also 4-7 against the RPI top 50. Earlier this week, they lost to Minnesota, their first loss against a team outside the top 20 in RPI. Now they have a loss against a team barely inside the top 100 on their resume. They’re 8-7 in the Big Ten, and their only remaining regular season game against a good opponent is at Michigan State on March 6. In other words, the Hawkeyes need to do some damage in the Big Ten tournament if they are going to earn a good seed in the big dance.
You wouldn’t expect Indiana to be in a game in which 179 points are scored, but that’s what happens when Iowa is involved. The two teams combined for 101 points in the first half, with Iowa taking a 52-49 lead into the locker room at halftime. It was Indiana, however, that was able to keep scoring with something resembling the efficiency of the first half. The Hawkeyes were just 4-20 from behind the arc, with Roy Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell combining to go 1-of-8. Marble was actually ruthless in the other facets of his game, knocking down seven of his 12 two-point attempts and finishing with 20 points, five assists and three steals. Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe had strong offensive nights as well, but again, it wasn’t the offense that cost the Iowa on this, or most, nights.
At 8-7 and trailing Ohio State by half a game for fourth place in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes are currently slated to take on the last-place team in the opening round of the conference tournament. While they likely wouldn’t be in much danger in that game, every extra game a team must play makes the degree of difficulty harder when it meets the Wisconsins and Michigans of the conference in the later rounds. Iowa needs those wins to improve it’s seeding in the field of 68. The loss at Indiana on Thursday may have fated the Hawkeyes to a scenario in which it will have to win two games in the conference tourney just to have a shot at a meaningful win.
Marquette 75, Georgetown 73: They haven’t been talked about at all this year, but might Buzz Williams’ Golden Eagles have a chance at sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. After downing Georgetown on Thursday, the answer is a solid maybe.
Behind 26 points from Davante Gardner and 22 from Jake Thomas, Marquette finished off a season sweep of Georgetown. In addition to the wins against the Hoyas, Marquette boasts victories over George Washington, Xavier and Providence. They’re just 2-9 against the RPI top 50, so clearly there is still work to be done without a whole lot of time to do it. Luckily for the Golden Eagles, their remaining schedule affords them all the opportunity they might need.
It all starts on Sunday at Villanova. Win that game, and their bubble case looks a whole lot stronger. Lose it, and the rest of the season might be moot. They finish up with a road game at Providence and a home game with St. John’s. Those are two teams firmly on the bubble, and strong enough that Marquette could boost its profile with wins. The fact remains, though, that it likely won’t matter if the Golden Eagles can’t pull off the upset over Villanova this weekend.
The loss was another turn in a bizarre season for the Hoyas, who looked left for dead after Josh Smith was deemed academically ineligible, then rallied back into the tournament picture with a four-game winning streak that included victories over Michigan State and Providence. Now just 7-9 in the Big East, the Hoyas find themselves in need of a major victory to impress the selection committee. Just like Marquette, their remaining schedule grants them just that chance. They’re off this weekend, but kick off next week by hosting Creighton on Tuesday. They wrap up the regular season with a trip to Philadelphia to take on Villanova on March 8. If they can win both, they’re in. If they split, they’ll be 5-6 against the RPI top 50 with wins over one of those two, plus Kansas State, VCU, Michigan State and Xavier. If they lose both, they’ll be desperate for statement wins in the Big East tourney.