The Iowa Hawkeyes ripped through a deep field in Indianapolis to capture the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 2006. A feverish comeback in the semifinal against Indiana found completion in the form of a banked-in triple from Jordan Bohannan. Fran McCaffery's side outlasted Purdue yesterday with championship poise and buy-in. This is a team that has lost only twice in its last 14 contests in a conference that challenges the very core the moment the ball is tipped. A selection committee seemingly disinterested in the final weekend of the season responded by slotting Iowa as a 5-seed in the Midwest and 20th on its final pecking order.
But anyone who has paying attention knows that this is not the 20th-best team in the country. Anyone paying attention knows that this unit can play with and beat anyone on the right day. A devastating offensive attack, which averaged 83.8 points per game — good for fourth in the nation — starts with Keegan Murray. The sophomore sensation poured in 23.6 points/game and finished second to Wisconsin's Johnny Davis in the Big Ten Player of the Year contest. At 6-foot-8 he can score near the basket and from distance. He posted a 55.5 percent shooting percentage and was over 40 percent from behind the arc.
Joining him in striking fear is Bohannan, who has been in Iowa City since the dawn of time. There is no shot the guard will not take and no shot he cannot make. Armed with incredible experience and an inability to miss free throws, he's exactly the type of player one wants with the ball in his hands during crunch time. Then there's Patrick McCaffery, who plays like the son of a coach because that's exactly what he is. It is not a sexy skill but there may be no one better in the entire country at feeding the ball to the post than this southpaw. In many ways the forward is the platonic ideal of his dad's offense, always making the right decision and maximizing advantageous angles off of the bounce. A stable of reliable role players including Tony Perkins, Kris Murray, Filip Rebraca and Joe Toussaint make the Hawkeyes deep and pliable.
Going into the Big Ten Tournament, I believed they were the best team in the Great Lakes region. They proved it. And I'm left to wonder if they aren't one of the best and most trustworthy teams in the entire country. Iowa, somehow, some way, has a decent chance at reaching New Orleans and cutting down the nets.
The path to the Sweet 16 tours through Richmond and either Providence or South Dakota State. The Friars have been one of the most fortunate sides in recent memories and could very well be riding a record that exceeds their ability. The two mid-major sides won't be able to matchup talent-wise. Kansas and Bill Self presumably wait and obviously pose a huge threat. But few teams this calendar year have proven to be able to match Iowa basket for basket. Auburn and Wisconsin could pose resistance as well, but no one said this would be easy.
Point is, Iowa is one of the most complete and dangerous 5-seeds we've seen in a long time. They were underseeded by the committee and have one of the best players in all of college basketball.