Come March, the so-called experts will convene and align the jigsaw puzzle that is the 68 team tournament to crown a national champion. The dilemma of who is allowed past the bouncer and enter the dance floor will depend on skillful maneuvering of a treacherous road to March.
When Sauron’s eye inevitably passes over Iowa’s body of work, Sunday’s victory against Minnesota will stick out as another defining moment for a program gaining steam in the nation’s best basketball conference.
This one was all about the bench, combining to put forth 43 of the team’s 94 point effort, including a boisterous 17 from Josh Oglesby. While Fran has used his bench to supplement his starters in case of foul trouble, today legitimized the second unit as a strength that could carry Iowa deep into March.
No better example than at the end of the first of half, when the hometown Hawkeyes found themselves down ten after a lightning quick run by the upset-minded Gophers. A speedy 8-0 run of their own, ending the half with two loud 3s by Oglesby cut the lead to 2 heading into the locker room and re-energized the home crowd heading to intermission.
Iowa then continued their torrid shooting in the second, complementing the strong bench play with a focused effort from Devyn Marble and Aaron White.
Without question, the Hawkeyes took the best punch from Minnesota right before the half, and returned with a thunderous upper-cut seized momentum from the clutches of a Gophers squad looking for a second upset in a row following their victory over Ohio State.
In a week that epitomized the difficulty of winning on a nightly basis in conference play, highlighted by Indiana’s victory over previously unbeaten Wisconsin, and then their subsequent no-show against Northwestern, the ability for Iowa to separate from an opponent will be incredibly beneficial moving forward.
While those in Ames claim to have the best perimeter shot in the state, Iowa’s barrage from long range is a wonderful sign for Iowa City folks. The 45% from 3 this afternoon, punctuated by Oglesby’s finest day in a Hawkeye jersey will open up the rest of the floor for the slashing wings like White and Uthoff to operate. If Iowa can demonstrate a continuous ability to shoot over a defense, it will become increasingly difficult to guard these Hawks.
After an expected rise in the polls, Iowa will hit the road this week to take on Michigan and Northwestern. Every night in this conference is a battle, but if Iowa can use their bench to break away from opponents, their resume will be a pretty glossy one once the dust has finally settled.