Wisconsin’s win over No. 8 Iowa gives Badgers tournament hopes
The Badgers upset No. 8 Iowa 67–59 on Wednesday night in Iowa City, as Wisconsin showcased a balanced scoring attack and a concerted defensive effort against Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff. Other highlights included Wisconsin shooting 10 of 23 night from behind the arc and a thunderous dunk from Khalil Iverson.
Here are three ways that Wisconsin’s win impacts the Big Ten standings and the Badgers’ postseason hopes.
The streak is alive and well
Wisconsin has appeared in the last 17 NCAA Tournaments and the Badgers’ streak appeared to be in jeopardy after their 6–5 start to the season. Wisconsin had lost to Western Illinois, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Milwaukee and Marquette before former head coach Bo Ryan announced his retirement after a win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 15.
Without Ryan -- a 2016 Naismith Hall of Fame finalist -- and five key players from last year’s team that lost in the national championship game, Wisconsin seemed destined to take a step back this season. However, interim head coach Greg Gard has steadied the Badgers' ship. After starting 1–4 in Big Ten play, Wisconsin has won nine of its last 10 games, including wins over then-No. 4 Michigan State, then-No. 19 Indiana, then-No. 2 Maryland and now, No. 8 Iowa.
Wisconsin will likely be favored in games against Michigan and Minnesota next week before finishing the regular season at Purdue. The Badgers (18–10, 10–5) are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. SI’s Michael Beller wrote in his latest Bubble Watch that “a win at Iowa on Wednesday would likely remove any remaining doubt" about their tournament chances.
After knocking off Iowa, Wisconsin is on the verge of making its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin’s (other) streak
Since the 2000-01 season, Wisconsin hasn’t finished worse than tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings. After a rough start to conference play, the Badgers were sitting just above Minnesota and Rutgers, who started a combined 0–26 in the Big Ten, in the conference standings. Wisconsin has only improved as the season has aged, and the Badgers would be tied for fourth with Michigan State if the season ended after Wednesday.
The Badgers’ remaining regular-season slate features a home game against Michigan and road contests against Minnesota and Purdue.
A race to the finish in the Big Ten
A win against Wisconsin would have elevated Iowa into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Indiana. Instead, the Hawkeyes, along with Maryland, sit one game back of the Hoosiers and one game ahead of Michigan State and Wisconsin.
The Hoosiers control their own destiny in their chase for a regular-season conference title. They travel to Illinois on Thursday before playing both second-place teams -- Iowa and Maryland -- in their final two regular-season games.
Iowa’s home game against Indiana is sandwiched by road tests at Ohio State and Michigan, while Maryland still has games against Purdue, Illinois and Indiana on its schedule. The Hawkeyes blew a major opportunity against the Badgers, but the Big Ten race is far from over.