Iowa's suddenly a genuine Big Ten title-contender

Michigan-Michigan State double-dip on Sunday helps the Hawkeyes

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March 29, 2014 | 3:45 am

One of the best days the Iowa men's basketball team has had this season was one in which it didn't play.

That day was today. The Hawkeyes pulled to within one game of first-place in the Big Ten by doing no more than sitting at home and watching Michigan and Michigan State lose as home favorites.

First, Michigan fell to Wisconsin, 75-62. That was on the surprising side, but not shocking. The Badgers had already come out of their funk of a few weeks ago when they lost three straight home games, including one to Northwetern.

But what happened next was a national shocker. Michigan State, a 14-point favorite, got clipped by Nebraska, 60-51. The Cornhuskers got off to a great start and never folded. It was a most impressive performance, their best as a Big Ten member. It got them to 6-6 in the Big Ten, 14-10 overall, and lets them start thinking seriously about making a run at an NCAA tournament berth.

As for the upper end of the Big Ten standings, it's this:

Michigan 10-3

Michigan State 10-3

Iowa 8-4

Wisconsin 8-5

If the Hawkeyes win at wobegotten Indiana Tuesday, it's game on for the Hawkeyes. They'll almost surely have to win at Michigan State on March 6, but if Nebraska can do it ...

Here are the remaining schedules:

Michigan: Michigan State, at Purdue, Minnesota, at Illinois, Indiana.

Michigan State: at Purdue, at Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, at Ohio State.

Iowa: at Indiana, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Purdue, at Michigan State, Illinois.

The Hawkeyes' only concern at the moment, of course, is Indiana. But road teams have done surprisingly well in Big Ten play this season, and this weekend was no exception. Not only did Nebraska and Wisconsin pull off road wins, but so did Iowa (at Penn State) and Ohio State (at Illinois).

If there's a better time to catch Indiana, I don't know what it would be. The Hoosiers got clubbed 82-64 at Purdue Saturday after falling at home to Penn State last Wednesday. They are 4-8 in the conference and reeling. But nothing that happened yesterday seems to mean much tomorrow in this league, this year.

 

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