Tip Time: Sunday @ 2 on Big Ten Network
Implications for Minnesota (17-7, RPI: 11):
One month ago, Minnesota was 15-1 and on an eight-game streak of winning games by double digits. People started speculating that if Duke lost to NC State, Michigan lost to Ohio State, and Minnesota beat Indiana that the Gophers could be atop the next AP Rankings.
Well, they didn’t beat Indiana…or Michigan, Northwestern or Wisconsin. They did beat Nebraska, because, well, who hasn’t? Then they nearly lost at home to Iowa before losing to Michigan State and Illinois.
Just like that, Minnesota dropped from potential No. 1 in the nation to potential bubble team in a span of 29 days; and the next 15 days won’t provide any relief. The Gophers will need to win four of their remaining seven games just to get to .500 in conference play, and a loss to Iowa would make that nearly impossible.
Implications for Iowa (15-9, RPI: 89):
Iowa is a far cry from the tournament field today, but certainly not for lack of opportunities or lack of effort in those opportunities. Losses to Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin (and Purdue, for that matter) could have just as easily been wins for the Hawkeyes.
As is, they’re 4-7 in conference play with only one definite loss (@ Indiana) left on their schedule. Games against Penn State, Purdue, and Nebraska (x2) should absolutely be wins. If those games play to form (a ludicrous assumption in 2013), they would be 8-8 with home games against Minnesota and Illinois to be determined.
A 9-9 record in the Big Ten might be enough for tournament inclusion; 10-8 in the Big Ten would almost certainly be enough to get in. So yeah, this is a huge game for both teams.
It will be a sloppily entertaining game that will only grow in importance as the week progresses: Hawkeyes 70-66.