INDIANAPOLIS — There is a private university in this city with about 5,500 students and a basketball arena that is 93 years old.
It is Butler University, and its men’s basketball team went 10-14 this season and won’t be seen in this year’s NCAA tournament, to be headquartered in this city.
The Bulldogs have done a lot more dancing than Iowa in the Big Dance this century, which makes it one of many programs that can say as much. Butler went to national-championship games in 2010 and 2011, and has been to five Sweet 16s since the calendar flipped to 2000.
That’s five more than Iowa, which last went to the Sweet 16 in 1999 when Tom Davis’ final Hawkeyes team was stopped by eventual national-champ Connecticut.
This week, the Hawkeyes try to do what 89 other men’s Division I programs have done since 2000, which is to still be standing in the NCAA tourney going into its second week.
Nine current Big Ten teams have been to a combined 51 Sweet 16s since 2000. Michigan State has been to 12, Wisconsin 10, Purdue six. Penn State, with just three winning records in Big Ten play since it joined the conference for basketball in 1992, has been to a Sweet 16.
Iowa State has been to three since 2000. Northern Iowa got that far in 2010.
Here are others who have played in the tourney’s second week in the last 21 years while the Hawkeyes watched: Milwaukee. Kent State. Florida Gulf Coast. Bradley. Davidson. St. Mary’s. Tulsa. Cornell University.
Southern Illinois, San Diego State and Nevada did it twice.
Loyola Chicago, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth not only got to Week 2, they reached Final Fours.
Iowa? A Big Ten program with a good basketball reputation? Zero two-win performances in any NCAA tourney between 2000 and 2020.
Ah, but this is 2021. The Hawkeyes almost surely will go into this week’s tournament with something they haven’t had since 1987, the last time they played in the Elite Eight. That’s a No. 2 seed.
Of Iowa’s seven previous NCAA teams since 2000 — yes, just seven — it was seeded higher than seventh just once. That sets you up to face a team that’s better than you in the second round, and that’s just what happened in losses to teams like Gonzaga in 2015 and Villanova in 2016.
The one time this millennium in which the Hawkeyes had a really good seed was 2006. They were a No. 3, and promptly lost a first-round game to Northwestern State.
Iowa isn’t losing a first-round game this time. These Hawkeyes are too good and too hungry to get taken out by a Cleveland State or Drexel or Rick Pitino’s Iona, or whomever is the No. 15 seed they’ll meet.
After that, though, nothing is given. The Hawkeyes would play a No. 7 or a No. 10 in the second round. As of Friday, the bracketologists said the No. 7s were teams like North Carolina, Oregon and San Diego State. They’re considered ahead of Rutgers, Maryland and Michigan State, if that tells you anything.
But two wins this week should happen this week for Iowa. This is a team that won by 15 points at Wisconsin, by 16 at Ohio State, by 22 at Maryland, and by 30 at Michigan State. It beat Rutgers by 13 and Purdue by 15 in Iowa City. Those are all NCAA tournament clubs.
Frankly, the Sweet 16 isn’t a high-enough bar to hurdle for this season’s Hawkeyes, and they know it. If you’re a No. 2 seed, you’re supposed to be one of the eight best teams. Elite, in fact.
But one game at a time. After Luka Garza has his way with some No. 15 seed that can’t begin to contain him, it’s will be time to beat a name team and have another week for excitement to build.
If not this year, when?
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