Two weeks ago, Iowa was still playing for an outside shot at the Big Ten regular season crown. Now, Iowa will be lucky to make the NCAA Tournament.
That’s how bad things have gotten. Since the beam fell from the heavens at Assembly Hall and cancelled the Iowa-Indiana matchup on February 18th, the Hawkeyes are 1-5, with the lone win by squeaking past Purdue.
With the Senior Night loss to Illinois, the doubt has more than just crept into Iowa City—it has seeped into the bedrock.
The funny thing is that the recent struggles on the defensive end weren’t totally apparent Saturday Night. Iowa didn’t allow a three-point barrage like against Minnesota or Michigan State. Nor did they let one person destroy them like Will Sheehey or Frank Kaminsky. On a night where Iowa only gave up 66 points, this time it was the Hawkeyes inability to knock out a close opponent.
We’ve heard that line one too many times in Fran McCaffery’s tenure, an issue that may be left unresolved before it’s too late. Iowa’s failure in close contests this season, which dates all the way back to Atlantis, may be the reason why Iowa is left without a dance partner in the coming weeks.
Licking their gaping wounds, what was once a 19-7, 8-5 team is now 20-11, 9-9 heading to Indianapolis.
Without a strong non-conference schedule, plus the fact that Iowa sports just two key victories (at #3 Ohio State and vs. #10 Michigan), Iowa needs a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament to avoid one of the biggest collapses in program history.
Without a first round bye, which was washed away with Saturday’s loss, Iowa will have to play an extra game and hope for a decent conference tournament run to salvage the expectations that this basketball team has failed to reach thus far. The Thursday of the Big Ten Tournament is incredibly random, giving the optimists hope that Iowa can right the ship.
Yet, without a doubt, the sharks are circling for this team. Coming off of finishing second at the NIT, this season had so much hope for a program that many believed to be a dark horse in the Big Ten. Months later, and finishing the regular season with the same record as last season’s installment, it’s hard not to sit here and question where it all went wrong.