Iowa Basketball: A Season of Déja Vu

Mar 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery reacts in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery reacts in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The season for the Iowa Basketball team came to an end with an 87-68 thrashing at the hands of the Villanova Wildcats.  There were many similarities between this season’s team and the previous two Iowa teams and it’s time to take a look back at those similarities.

It all started in Ames, Iowa.  The Hawkeyes held a big lead and looked poised to pull off a road upset in one of the toughest venues in all of college basketball to get a win.  In both games, Iowa held an 82-77 lead with less than 90 seconds remaining.  Then things began to unravel.  Everything that could possibly go wrong for Iowa did go wrong.

In the 2013 meeting it was missed free-throws, and in 2015 it was turnovers which fueled Iowa State to storm back and take late leads.  By now Hawkeye fans know the story, down 83-82 Mike Gesell stepped to the line and missed two free throws with 13 seconds left and Iowa State won that game 85-82.

In the 2015 meeting, Monte Morris hit a runner in the lane with about 10 seconds left to give Iowa State an 83-82 lead.  Jarrod Uthoff got a good look at a potential game-winning three but it hit off the front rim and Iowa State completed the improbable comeback for an 83-82 win.

Then came conference play.  In 2013, Iowa began receiving national attention after impressive wins on the road against top 5 Ohio State and after a throttling home victory against Big Ten leader Michigan.  This season, Iowa beat top ranked Michigan State at home and then followed that up with a win against Purdue in Mackey Arena.

12 days later, the Hawkeyes went into Breslin Center and dominated the Spartans, this time with Denzel Valentine, and suddenly the Hawkeyes looked like a team that could not only contend for a Big Ten title, but also looked like a team capable of making a deep tournament run.

There is something about Assembly Hall.  In 2014, Iowa had a game at Indiana cancelled due to a falling beam from the ceiling, and what followed was the collapse that defined the 2013-14 Iowa Hawkeyes.  In 2016, Iowa lost a tough battle with the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall, dropping its conference record to 10-2.  What followed was a slide that paralleled 2013-14 in many ways.

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In both seasons, Iowa lost five of its next six games, with the lone win being a close call at home against a team at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.  Iowa lost games to teams that were not as good as then, but they were forgivable losses due to being in tough environments.

In 2013-14, Iowa lost at Indiana and at Minnesota, and this past year Iowa lost at Ohio State, and at home to Wisconsin.  In the rough stretch, there was only one bad loss.  Two years ago it was a home loss to Illinois in the regular season finale and this past year it was a road loss at Penn State.  The common thread in many of those losses was bad play late in close games that ultimately contributed to a lot of the defeats.

Iowa looked like it was going to reverse the trend of 2013-14 with a win on the road at Michigan, but then the Big Ten tournament happened.  In the previous two seasons, Iowa was playing a double-digit seed that came to the tournament with nothing to lose and in both seasons, defeated Iowa.

This year was no different.  The Hawkeyes were matched up with Illinois and got off to a terrible start, and not even Peter Jok catching fire or a furious late game comeback could lift Iowa, and it bowed out of the Big Ten tournament after one game for the third consecutive season.

Like the 2015 season, Iowa earned a 7 seed and was matched up with a 10 seed that was an at-large bid and won the regular season championship in a respected non-power five league.  In 2015 it was Davidson, and this past year it was Temple.  Iowa won its first round game in both of those seasons to match up with a second seed with something to prove.

Both Gonzaga last season and Villanova this season were looking to shed the early-round choke label, and both teams took its respective frustrations out on the Hawkeyes.  In both seasons, the game was over about ten minutes in as Gonzaga and Villanova tore apart the Iowa zone, making virtually every shot from the outside and the result was a dominating victory over the Hawkeyes.  To put this story full circle, the final score in both of those games: an 87-68 Iowa defeat.

Next: Hawkeyes lose in second round to Villanova

Iowa has had a lot of basketball success over the past three seasons, but the parallels in events between this season and the last two were uncanny.