Sunday should be happy day in Hawkeyeland

Iowa limping into NCAAs, but limps have been known to heal

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April 1, 2014 | 9:39 am

If we know anything about sports, it's that we know the least once we think we know something.

OK, that may not make much sense. But all the time, something happens to make you say "I didn't see that coming." Like the Iowa men's basketball team losing six of its last seven games including a Big Ten tournament first-round game against Northwestern.

So now the conventional so-called wisdom is that the Hawkeyes are toast, that their NCAA tournament stay will be unmercifully brief.

Well, don't be so sure. All that talk about Iowa having Final Four potential not that many weeks ago sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but it wasn't all that kooky at the time. Nor is it kooky to think the Hawkeyes can rise from the ashes and make serious trouble for a team or teams this week.

Giving examples of other teams that limped into the NCAA tourney only to throw their crutches away once they got there may not be the best way to make a case, since you can find examples of anything you want from past tournaments. But let's do it anyway.

Minnesota was 15-1 and ranked eighth at one point last season. It lost 11 of its next 16 games including a 51-49 first-round Big Ten tourney game against Illinois. The Gophers wheezed into the NCAAs as a No. 11 seed, and promptly routed sixth-seed UCLA, 83-63.

Florida lost four of its last five games before the NCAAs began in 2012, then won three times in the big tournament. And so forth.

If ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi was right Saturday morning -- granted, he changes things up about every 47 seconds in mid-March -- Iowa would be a No. 10 seed and would play No. 7-seed Saint Louis. Like the Hawkeyes, the Billikens have been ranked as high as 10th this season. Like the Hawkeyes, the Billikens were one-and-done in their conference tourney. They've dropped four of their last five games.

So there's that pasta strand of a life line of hope. And before you look at Sunday's brackets and sigh at the degree of difficulty of playing into a second game or second week, remember this: You're in the tourney!

Since 2007, nine different Big Ten teams have gone to the NCAA a total of 40 times. Michigan State and Wisconsin have gone every year in that period.

Since 2007, Big Ten teams have 64 NCAA tourney victories. That number looked crazy-high to me, but it isn't. Michigan State and Ohio State have 16 NCAA wins each in that time.

Since 2007,  a grand total of 181 different schools have gone, from Montana to Vermont, from Eastern Kentucky to Western Kentucky, from St. John's to St. Mary's, from every state that borders Iowa, and from Ames, Cedar Falls and Des Moines.

Now, finally, Iowa returns. Better to be going in limping than to have good health and watch the tournament from your couch.

 

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