What Has Happened to Iowa’s Dream Season?
Three short weeks ago, Hawkeye men's basketball fans were making plans to be in Des Moines for the opening two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The experts were projecting Iowa as a number one seed playing close to home. Then, a road game happened that seemed to change everything.
The Hawkeyes were 17-3 and ranked in the top five nationally when they made a Thursday night visit to Bloomington, Indiana. You could feel the intensity inside Assembly Hall through your television that night. Iowa shot the same percentage from the field as Indiana and shot a higher percentage from three-point range. However, one telltale stat from that evening has continued to haunt the Hawkeyes. Iowa's bench, which had been playing SO well to that point, was outscored 28-0 by Indiana.
That night, I thought it was just the incredible din in the arena that was bothering Iowa's young players. Unfortunately, their youth has continued to show and it's becoming more and more evident Iowa's starting five can't handle the load themselves. Here's what the Iowa bench has done since that day with their opponent's bench points in parentheses.
- 2/14 versus Minnesota: Six points (27)
- 2/17 at Penn State: Ten points (29)
- 2/24 versus Wisconsin: Four points (23)
- Today at Ohio State: Ten points (18)
There are two other things that are a large cause for alarm. Iowa has begun to turn the ball over. A lot. Today, 15 turnovers. Tuesday night against Wisconsin, 14 miscues. Last week at Penn State, 13 turnovers. That trend is not a winning one and has spelled three straight defeats.
The other is Adam Woodbury's disappearing act on the offensive end. Versus Illinois on February 7, Adam had 10 points and 14 rebounds. In the game against the Hoosiers, 13 points and 15 rebounds. Here's what he's done since:
- Versus Minnesota: One point and five rebounds
- At Penn State: Six points and 10 rebounds
- Versus Wisconsin: Six points and 18 rebounds
- Today: Four points and nine rebounds
Rebounds are important but Adam has to be a threat offensively, especially with Iowa now having shooting woes from the outside. Iowa looks tired. Their legs don't seem to be there on the jumpers. Now, more than ever, Iowa needs Woodbury to score. If nothing else, he has to try. He's attempted nine field goals in the last four games, combined. NINE. Don't misunderstand. The blame certainly doesn't all fall on his broad shoulders.
Following today's game, I received an email from the Big Ten Conference with the headline "Indiana Men’s Basketball Clinches At Least a Share of Big Ten Championship." It made me sick to my stomach for the second time in a matter of minutes.
A win Tuesday night in Iowa City and the Hoosiers will clinch the Big Ten Championship all to themselves. They'll also be looking to put Iowa into an even bigger tailspin. It's a short turnaround for Iowa against a team that didn't have to play this weekend. A team that will be fresh. A team with a lot to play for. Iowa needs to get the ship righted quickly because March is almost here and the woes of February can be forgotten. Still, not winning a Big Ten Championship that once seemed well within their grasp will be hard to swallow for a long time. For the players. For the coaches. For the fans.