Schwartz: Hawkeye Hoops Fans, Is It Time To Panic?

March 5, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

This column isn’t so much about the Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball team as it is about you. About us.

And it starts with a question: What was going through your head Tuesday night when Purdue doubled up Iowa’s score in the first half of the Boilermakers’ 77-68 victory, an outcome, we should add, that gives new life to the old cliché that the game was not as close as the score indicated?

Purdue shredded the Hawkeyes. They made us forget which was a top-of-the-conference team and which was in the bottom half. It was shocking, or at least as shocking as a regular-season game can be.

So what was going through your head? There are so many places for us to start it’s tough to know where to begin.

The non-alarmist: Meh. It was a weird, late start, 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night. Maybe Purdue just has Iowa’s number, since the Boilermakers have won four straight in the series.

At Purdue in early February the Boilermakers throttled the Hawkeyes, 104-68. That game was most notable for Purdue making 63 percent of its field goals. Five Purdue players scored at least 13 points.

Tuesday night Iowa’s home-court advantage kicked in, I guess, because they only lost by nine instead of 36. Still, a win is a win, and maybe Purdue is just a bad matchup for the Hawkeyes. Maybe Fran McCaffery can’t hang with Matt Painter. Maybe Purdue is just a smarter team.

Either way, the Hawkeyes might see Purdue again in the Big Ten Tournament, but they won’t see them in the NCAA Tournament so there’s nothing to worry about.

The cautionary approach: Hmmm. You hate to see the Hawkeyes once again fading instead of peaking as they approach the Big Ten Tournament.

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Still, that might not be fair. They were one game removed from a big win over Penn State, and the top of the Big Ten is a competitive mess. True, Purdue might have Iowa’s number, but it might be more than that.

We’re seeing larger trends. Luka Garza has been consistent, but CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint are showing signs of hitting a wall. Neither has played this level of basketball for this length of time before.

Also, I’m no Hawkeye insider, but Joe Wieskamp hasn’t looked himself for a couple of weeks. There’s no evidence it’s anything serious, so maybe it’s just one of those valleys that people suffer through and work themselves out of throughout the course of a season.

Whatever is happening, we’ve got this weekend’s Illinois game to help us figure out what’s going on with the Hawkeyes. Maybe Tuesday’s slip against Purdue is indicative of larger issues, or maybe it was nothing more than a bad game.

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Sound the alarm: Well, that’s it. Great season, everyone. It was a great ride. See you next year.

They’re hitting just one out of every four three-point attempts. They’re giving up too many offensive rebounds.

Plus we’re finally witnessing the entropy of a team that suffered injuries or medical issues to three players who could have contributed major minutes this season: Jordan Bohannon, Jack Nunge, and Patrick McCaffery.

Fredrick, who has nobly battled through injuries, had to play all but five minutes Tuesday night. Garza got just 2 minutes of rest. A breakdown in personnel – and therefore a breakdown in performance – was bound to happen.

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So pack it up. Leave your expectations by the curb and don’t feel like you have to block off too much time the next few weekends to watch Iowa in the postseason. 2020-21 should be a blast.

What was going through your head? We’re back to the original question. Were you rational, able to keep Tuesday’s loss in perspective? Are you taking a wait-and-see approach? Or have you given up?

After what happened against Purdue, there’s no right or wrong answer. From moment to moment you could be experiencing any one of these reactions and be justified in doing so.

Sometimes, this is what it means to be a sports fan. We’re forced to deal with unpleasant realities. In this case we know the Hawkeyes have run out of gas. The real question is whether they can fill up the tank before it’s too late.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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