IOWA — As the Iowa men’s hoops team prepares for their first Big 10 tournament game since 2015, the program has already seen its share of ups and downs.
The Hawkeyes (14-6, 7-3) will be facing No. 4 Wisconsin (17-9, 9-4) on Friday, Jan. 28 in the Big Ten Tournament title game at the Target Center.
This will be the first time the Hawkeyes have played since the 2017 Big Ten Championship.
Iowa’s last Big Ten tournament win came over the Badgers in the title game of the NCAA Tournament.
This will mark the fifth time Iowa has played in a Big 10 championship game, including two appearances in the 2016 NCAA Championship game.
Iowa lost in the first round to Villanova in the semifinals of the title, and it was the only loss of its 2017-18 season.
The team has been working on a blueprint of how to get its best performance in a tournament since it took over as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and that blueprint is looking to be tested against Wisconsin and the Badger-Badgers rematch.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Hawkeyes head coach Matt Painter said.
“We’ve got a very talented team that’s been working hard.
The biggest thing is to get that win.”
It was a huge game for the Hawks on Saturday.
The Big Ten’s top seed got to the Final Four on its home floor in front of its fans and the Big 12 title game on the same stage.
That made it an even bigger occasion.
“I think the big thing for us is to show the fans, the media, the fans that we’re back,” Painter said of the upcoming contest.
“That’s really what we wanted.
To show everyone that we can get out there and compete, we need that win to make sure we’re in the tournament.”
The Hawks have a chance to become the first Big Ten team to win two Big Ten championships.
They’re 2-2 in conference play and 3-1 in the regular season.
They’ve been eliminated from the Big East Tournament after falling to Iowa in the championship game.
The Badgers have been a revelation.
The Badgers are now ranked No. 3 in the AP poll, and they’re in second place in the Associated Press poll after the Big 9 Tournament and Big Ten Championships.
Wisconsin has been the top team in the nation, winning 10 of its last 11 games and outscoring opponents, which has helped the Badies stay atop the Big Green’s rankings.
Wisconsin is coming off of a win over Indiana in the national semifinals, but the Badgies are not in the midst of a run like Iowa.
Wisconsin is 1-3 against the BadGies this season.
“Our guys are hungry to win and they know it,” Painter added.
“They know we’re hungry, too.
They know we’ve got the talent.
We know we have the guys who can make it happen.
It’s not about a championship game.”
It is Iowa’s second trip to the Big10 Tournament since it won the league in 2013.
The Hawkeyes went to the conference tournament in 2019, where they fell to Michigan in the quarterfinals.
Painter said it is important for the players to be on the court, which the team will be doing in order to prepare for the rematch with Wisconsin.
“We have the mindset that if we do our job, if we’re on the floor, we’re going to get it done,” Painter explained.
“If we’re not on the ground, we’ll be outworked.”