The Iowa Hawkeyes (14-8; 10-8 Big Ten) will take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-10; 9-9 Big Ten) on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET in what will be the final regular-season game for both teams. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network Plus streaming service.
The last time the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers met, it was a high-scoring affair (as Iowa games tend to be), with the Hawkeyes prevailing 88-81 on Feb. 11. Freshman sensation Caitlin Clark, who is a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award and is a frontrunner for National Freshman of the Year, recorded 39 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Hawkeyes — one of ten 30-point efforts for Clark on the season.
Clark will need to put up big numbers once again to keep Iowa in consideration for the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes are currently projected to be a No. 8 seed by ESPN’s Charlie Creme, and while it’s unlikely that a loss to Nebraska would drop them out completely, it’s the time of year when every game counts and a letdown could mean the difference between tournament entry or denial.
For Nebraska, the stakes don’t seem as high. The Cornhuskers sit at 9-9 in conference play and while they have wins over Northwestern, Rutgers, Michigan State and Ohio State on their resume, they don’t have much of a non-conference case, and aren’t projected by Creme to be an NCAA Tournament team.
Perhaps a big victory over Iowa could put Nebraska “on the bubble” of the NCAA Tournament, but Saturday’s game will more realistically be used as a Big Ten Tournament measuring stick, for which seeding has yet to be decided. Incidentally, Nebraska (No. 9 seed) currently ranks just behind Iowa (No. 8 seed) in the Big Ten standings, so if those are any indicator, we’ll be in for one more competitive game to finish up regular-season play on Saturday.
Iowa Hawkeyes (14-8; 10-8 Big Ten) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-10; 9-9 Big Ten)
When: Saturday, March 5, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, IA
Keys to the matchup: Stopping Clark has proven to be futile for the majority of Big Ten teams this season, but outscoring her as a team has had better results: Iowa ranks dead last in Division I in points allowed per game (81.3), a stark contrast to their offensive ranking (87.6 points scored per game; second in Division I). Winning a shootout behind Sam Haiby (28 points vs. Iowa on Feb. 11) may be Nebraska’s best strategy, save for a rare off-night from Clark, but the Cornhuskers will need an answer for Iowa’s Monika Czinano as well; the Hawkeyes center is currently scoring 18.8 points per game on 66.8 percent shooting.