Iowa got caught looking ahead when it lost to Nebraska on Sunday in the regular-season finale.
The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes (19-12) vow that won’t happen again when they begin defense of their Big Ten tournament title against 13th-seeded Ohio State in a second-round matchup on Thursday in Chicago.
The winner advances to a Friday quarterfinal game against fourth-seeded Michigan State.
After the 81-77 loss to Nebraska, Hawkeyes forward Payton Sandfort said his team possibly overlooked the Cornhuskers with an eye on the tournament.
“I don’t think we’ll make that mistake again,” he said.
The result cost Iowa a chance for a double bye and instead the Hawkeyes must win four games in four days to capture the championship, as they did last year.
With a veteran team, led by All-Big Ten first-team forward Kris Murray, a repeat is possible.
“A lot of those guys not only went through it but performed well in that environment,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
The Buckeyes (14-18) almost blew a 27-point, second-half lead before holding off 12th-seeded Wisconsin 65-57 on Wednesday.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was proud of the way his team responded to adversity, not only against the Badgers but by recording three wins in the past four games following a 1-14 skid.
“I give our players credit,” he said. “We had a really hard stretch, the hardest stretch of my career and I know these players’ careers, so we just stayed together and found a way to start playing a little bit better.”
McCaffery doesn’t put much stock in the Buckeyes’ seeding because of the competitiveness in the Big Ten.
“Nobody wants to play 11, 12, 13, 14 in this league,” he said. “I think everybody goes (to Chicago) knowing that everybody has got a shot.”
The Ohio State-Iowa season series was split: The Buckeyes won 93-77 at home on Jan. 21 while the host Hawkeyes were 92-75 winners on Feb. 16.
“They gave it to us at their place,” Holtmann said. “Fran does an outstanding job. It’ll be a great contest.”
–Field Level Media