Who says Iowa needs to win its way into the NCAA tournament? Maybe all the Hawkeyes need to do is stand back and let everybody else lose, like on Thursday night.
Iowa (19-11, 8-9 Big Ten, 76 RPI) had as good a night as possible without playing. Three bubble teams with NCAA aspirations lost, giving the Hawkeyes a better chance to enter the conversation entering Saturday's regular-season finale against Nebraska. Here's what happened:
Virginia (20-10) lost 53-51 at Florida State (16-14, RPI 87). Virginia's RPI fell from 63 to 70.
Defending champion Kentucky (20-10, RPI 54) suffered a crushing 72-62 loss at Georgia (15-15, RPI 125). Kentucky's RPI fell two spots.
UMass (18-10) wasn't in heavy discussion for an at-large spot but its loss to Butler cemented its fate outside the NCAA (barring a league tournament run, of course).
Plus, Iowa's next opponent, Nebraska (14-16, 5-12), moved up to 98th in RPI. If the Hawkeyes win on Saturday, that gives Iowa another top-100 win. If Iowa doesn't win, then any bubble talk is worthless from here on out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
In the Ohio Valley Conference semifinals, Eastern Kentucky (24-8) plays Murray State (20-9). The winner likely will meet Belmont (which plays Tennessee State) for the OVC championship. Belmont will garner heavy discussion as a possible at-large if it loses to either Eastern Kentucky or Murray State.
Illinois State (17-14) faces Northern Iowa (18-13) in the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals today. Both schools have the potential to win the league tournament title. Creighton and Wichita State are likely to gain NCAA spots as either a conference champion or at-large squad. The ISU-UNI winner poses the greatest opportunity for the Valley to get a third spot and snag a precious at-large spot. Keep your eyes on Indiana State (17-13) vs. Evansville (18-13) as well.
REGULAR-SEASON GAMES THAT MATTER ON SATURDAY
Here's what Iowa guard Devyn Marble said this week when asked if he pays attention to the team's postseason possibilities:"I’d be lying if I said no, but at the end of the day, we’ve been focused," he said. "We’re doing a good job of just staying focused with each opponent one game at a time and letting the outsiders deal with our positioning, the resume and let you guys have fun with that. I don’t know what goes on and factors and all that."