CHICAGO, Ill. - Iowa's postseason fate is out of its control, and it's an uncomfortable feeling for the Hawkeyes.
Minutes after losing a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal to No. 8 Michigan State on Friday, Iowa's players and coaches made one last plea for the NCAA selection committee to consider them for at-large discussion. The Hawkeyes (21-12) said their conference ranking (sixth), competitiveness and quality wins over likely NCAA competition merit consideration.
"I think we deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament," Iowa senior Eric May said. "I'm really proud of my team. We are a really good team and we have fought all season long. Whenever we are playing, we are going to play our tails off next week, wherever we are playing."
"We beat most of the tournament teams," Iowa junior Melsahn Basabe said. "If they're going to put somebody else in, why wouldn't they put us in? We finished sixth in the conference, in the best conference in America."
Iowa's argument for inclusion is rooted in wins over likely NCAA tournament teams Iowa State, Western Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota. The Hawkeyes have six wins over top-100 teams and finished 10-10 against league squads. Iowa's average margin-of-victory in Big Ten play was 10.6 points, and margin-of-defeat was 7.4. If you take out a 28-point shellacking at Michigan, it was 5.1.
But Iowa also has several key areas that pose problems for the NCAA selection committee. Iowa's RPI, which figures in wins, losses and strength of schedule, ranks 78. That's 11 spots below the worst RPI team ever to advance to the NCAA tournament. Iowa faced five teams with RPIs past 300 in non-conference play. Iowa finished 2-8 in true road games, and those wins were against the Big Ten's bottom two teams.
But when compared to other bubble competition, Iowa's numbers are not completely out of whack. KenPom, which measures points scored and allowed per possession, ranks Iowa 30th. Sagarin Ratings, which are used in college football's Bowl Championship Series, rates Iowa 28th. That's why the Hawkeyes could still merit consideration -- at least that's what they are banking on.
"I think it's clear with what we have done that we should be in the NCAA Tournament," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "I respect the job that the committee has. I know it's difficult. I know there are a lot of other folks that feel the same way. But I think, you know, when you look at all the numbers, I think they bear out that we should be in. I think if you want to lock into any one particular number, you look at all of them. I think if you do that, you'll see where we stack up."
Iowa sophomore Aaron White admits the waiting period "will be a little stressful" and the situation "will be on my mind" before selections are announced at 5 p.m. Sunday.
"Am I really going to be able to watch some of these teams and think they're more deserving of us when you look at our resume maybe not our resume when it comes down to numbers but when it comes down to watching the basketball team play, how hard they fought, top five, top-10 teams all year?" White said. "You've got people on national TV talking about RPI numbers, strength-of-schedule numbers and all these numbers. But when it really comes down to it, when you watch a team are they one of the best 68 teams in the country? I think we are."
And if Iowa doesn't get in?
"Go win the NIT," White said.