| Hawk Central
The red-hot Iowa basketball team is about to reach its most challenging week yet on the schedule.
The Big Ten Conference on Friday announced it was moving the Hawkeyes’ originally scheduled March 4 game at Michigan up by seven days. The game will now be played Feb. 25 in Ann Arbor in a 6 p.m. CT telecast on ESPN.
Because Michigan lost five games while on a lengthy pause due amid growing concerns about a new strain of the coronavirus, the Big Ten has been working through various options to squeeze in as much of the originally-planned, 20-game conference schedule for the Wolverines as possible. In this case, Michigan had a schedule opening in the middle of next week.
As a result, the Iowa-Nebraska game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (which coach Fran McCaffery says will be made up) is likely to land during the final week of the regular season.
Iowa moved up to No. 5 in Friday’s NCAA NET rankings and No. 3 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings after Thursday’s 77-62 domination of Wisconsin in the Kohl Center. Now, next week’s lineup of games means the Hawkeyes (16-6 overall, 10-5 Big Ten) will go on the road to face the No. 3 team in the NET (Michigan) and No. 6 (Ohio State) in a span of four days.
This is the only Iowa-Michigan meeting in the regular season. The Wolverines (15-1 overall, 10-1 Big Ten) are 11-0 in the Crisler Center this season
The Iowa-Ohio State game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. tip-off on Feb. 28 and will be televised on CBS. The Buckeyes (18-4, 12-4) have won seven straight, including an 89-85 decision in Iowa City on Feb. 4.
That sets up a final week for Iowa with two home games. The long-ago postponed game against last-place Nebraska now moves to March 4, with the time and network to be determined, then Wisconsin in the March 7 regular-season finale. Iowa is currently fourth in the Big Ten standings, a full game ahead of Purdue. If it can hold onto that spot or climb slightly, it would mark the first time in the 11-year McCaffery era that the Hawkeyes received a top-four Big Ten Tournament seed.
Iowa has won three straight games by a combined margin of 58 points — home against Rutgers (by 13), at Michigan State (by 30) and at Wisconsin (by 15).