CHICAGO — Luka Garza had no trouble finding a silver lining after a lopsided loss to Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday night.
“Last year we lost to Michigan and it was the end of our season,’’ Garza said. “This time we’re going home to get ready for the NCAA tournament.’’
The Hawkeyes are considered to be safely in the tournament for the first time since 2016 by virtue of a 22-11 record, a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten and a No. 41 ranking in the NET.
But where they will be going, who they will be playing and where they will be seeded won’t be known until 5 p.m. today when the tournament bracket is unveiled on CBS.
There is considerable disagreement as to how the Hawkeyes stack up. Various bracketologists have them projected as high as a No. 7 seed or as low as a No. 10. In either case, they are likely to open the tournament against a team with comparable credentials and potentially would face a No. 1 or No. 2 seed if they get to a second game.
At this point, the Hawkeyes are just glad to be back in the Big Dance after missing out the past couple of years.
“We are going to be playing next week,’’ freshman Joe Wieskamp said. “There are a lot of teams in the country that don’t have that opportunity, so we are proud of the season we’ve had.”
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Iowa likely could have improved its seed with a better showing Friday against a Michigan team that figures to be a No. 2 or 3 seed.
The Hawkeyes fell behind by 13 points at halftime and never really threatened after that in a 74-53 loss.
Garza, who shared scoring honors with 14 points in the defeat, said the game “kind of serves as motivation for the week.’’
“I’m hoping in the next day we can learn from it, watch the film and get better,’’ junior guard Jordan Bohannon said following the game. “The main thing is just realizing what we’ve done this season … We’ve just got to make the most of these next few days because we’ve got to get better.’’
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he feels the Big Ten’s arduous 20-game conference schedule has done a good job preparing the Hawkeyes for what lies ahead.
“I feel really good in the sense that we’re healthy,’’ McCaffery said. “We got through a long, difficult season and through a conference tournament healthy, so I think that’s good.
“I think we had some players develop and get some seasoning. Some of our younger guys have continued to produce. Our key personnel, I think, are in a good place, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to play in maybe the greatest spectacle in college sports.’’