Iowa vs. Northwestern preview: Hawkeyes look to improve their bubble status in the Big 10 Tournament

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

With their status in doubt for The Big Dance, Iowa needs to advance in their conference tournament to be a serious contender for an at-large bid.

Iowa (9-9) takes on Northwestern (4-14) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament as Iowa looks to build on a strong finish to their regular season. Despite winning six of their last eight games, ESPN's Joe Lunardi still has the Hawkeyes on the outside looking in come Tournament time. A win over Northwestern would set Iowa up against Michigan State, where the Spartans could be a launching pad for Iowa to earn an at-large bid or at the very least continue padding their résumé in the Big Ten tournament.

Northwestern has already lost to Iowa by double digits twice this season, dropping a home game on Jan. 13 and a game at Iowa Feb. 9. The Wildcats have been in a slump -- even for them -- losing 10 of their last eleven games to secure another losing season. But Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire is solid up front, averaging 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Northwestern will have to make this a dogfight to keep their season alive.

As for Iowa, they are led by swingman Roy Marble, who scores 14.1 points per game for the Hawkeyes. In the last two weeks, the junior went off for 20 points against Indiana and 21 in a win over Illinois. With their superior record and recent success, Iowa should be able to handle Northwestern and keep making their case to be playing late in March.

Game time/TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN

Location: United Center, Chicago, Ill.

More: For more on the Iowa Hawkeyes, head over to Black Heart Gold Pants. And for more on Northwestern, check out Sippin' On Purple.

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