This one is going to sting for the Hawkeyes, because they had a golden opportunity to put themselves into a great spot for an NCAA tournament bid.
With the rest of the bubble teams around the country losing today, the Hawkeyes — who Dave Ommen had as the fifth team out heading into today’s action — took a 10 point lead over Michigan State into halftime and pushed that lead to 12 with just over ten minutes left in the game. Close out the win, and Iowa just may have done enough to inch their way onto the right side of the bubble.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Keith Appling and Gary Harris sparked a 22-2 run that turned that 12 point deficit into a 57-49 lead with just under two minutes left in the game. Iowa still had a chance, missing three threes in the final minute that would have tied the game, but none of the three went down and Fran McCaffery and his talented group of youngsters look like they’re headed to the NIT.
Would the win over Michigan State have been enough to change their fortunes?
Maybe. Maybe not. It would have depended on how a lot of other things played out around the country, and likely would have required at least a win over Ohio State in the semifinals to feel safe. Hopefully, that will take some of the sting out of the loss, knowing that all Iowa cost themselves was a chance to play their way into the tournament, not a spot in the Big Dance.
For the Spartans, the good news is that Appling and Harris, who had struggled throughout the game, took over down the stretch. Appling, in particular, has had an up-and-down season, but the Spartans are undoubtedly a better basketball team when he is playing well. Will he carry the momentum from this win into Saturday’s semifinal against the Buckeyes?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.