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Strength of Big Ten and Iowa’s late-season surge could send the Hawkeyes dancing

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Iowa hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2006, but it has played its way onto the bubble with one game left in the regular season this year. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, winning that final game won't provide much of a boost to their resume, but losing it would end their hopes.

After beating Illinois 63-55 at home Tuesday, Iowa will host Nebraska on Saturday to close out the regular season. The Cornhuskers are a sub-.500 team with only four Big Ten Conference wins, but one of those wins came just two weeks ago over the Hawkeyes. Losing to Nebraska a second time would be too much to overcome even in a league such as the Big Ten where the overall strength of the conference has a team like Iowa on tournament life support.

Iowa started Big Ten Conference play 3-7 but has won four of its past six games. The naysayers will search without much luck in finding quality wins on the Hawkeyes' resume. The victory over Illinois certainly counts as does a win over Wisconsin earlier this season and maybe Minnesota, but there isn't much to brag about beyond that.

Wing Roy Devyn Marble has come around after struggling badly in late January and early February. He has become one of the most dangerous scorers the Big Ten has to offer, scoring at least 18 points in six of his past seven games.

Iowa will need a strong push in the Big Ten tournament with at least one upset to further its case assuming it handles its business this time against Nebraska. A win Saturday would be the 20th of the season for Iowa. If it allows Nebraska to steal that win, it will have to steal the Big Ten's automatic berth, which is highly unlikely considering the gauntlet of teams it would have to oust in the process.

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