Iowa Hawkeyes: 22-11, 10-10 in the Big Ten
Head coach: Fran McCaffery (9th season)
Players to watch: Tyler Cook (14.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG); Luka Garza (12.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 52.4 FG%); Jordan Bohannon (11.3 PPG, 88.0 FT%, 38.5 3PT%); Joe Weiskamp (10.8 PPG, 42.2 3PT%)
Season recap: Iowa returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016 and the fourth time in McCaffery’s tenure. The Hawkeyes knocked off then-No. 13 Oregon in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden before defeating Connecticut to win the 2K Empire Classic. In the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, Iowa defeated Pittsburgh before the Big Ten slate began in November due to the 20-game conference schedule. Iowa also defeated Iowa State 98-84 at home and blew out Missouri Valley Conference runner-up Northern Iowa on a neutral court. For the first time in 32 seasons, Iowa ended its nonconference schedule undefeated.
After falling to Wisconsin and Michigan State to open up the early season conference schedule, Iowa lost to Purdue to start the rest of Big Ten play in January. The Hawkeyes then won five games in a row as they defeated then-No. 24 Nebraska and then-No. 16 Ohio State. After two losses, Iowa defeated then-No. 5 Michigan 74-59 en route for four consecutive victories. Against Northwestern, junior Jordan Bohannon hit a game-winning 3-pointer off an inbound pass from redshirt freshman Connor McCaffery. In the next game, McCaffery, a two-sport athlete, used his Big Ten baseball talent to throw the ball down the court before freshman Joe Weiskamp, off a tip from redshirt senior Nicolas Baer, banked a triple from behind the basket to notch Iowa’s 20th win on the season.
The Hawkeyes earned the sixth seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That result marked the sixth time in the past seven seasons that Iowa has finished in the top half of the standings, which matched Wisconsin and is one behind Michigan State. McCaffery’s high-powered offense defeated Illinois in the second round of the conference tournament before falling to Michigan.
How they make a run: The Hawkeyes shore up their defense and continue to attack the basket, draw fouls and knock down their 3-pointers, showing an offensive acumen worthy of advancing deep in the tournament.
How they falter: Iowa struggles from the free throw line and from 3-point range like it did against Wolverines the second time around, leading to an end to the season before the second weekend.