Schwartz: Not Too Late for Redemption for Hawkeyes

March 14, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

“IT’S A CLEAN SLATE IN CHI-TOWN,” the University of Iowa declared on its official men’s basketball website.

What a remarkable achievement: two errors in just six words. First, no one calls it Chi-town. Second, it’s not a clean slate for the Hawkeyes, who enter the Big Ten Tournament drenched in more stink than a dead skunk rotting in the back of a manure truck on a 95-degree day.

Four straight losses. Five losses in six games. Three of those losses to non-NCAA Tournament teams.

That’s OK. We’ve grown accustomed to Iowa not playing well down the stretch. As a friend informed me the other day, the Hawkeyes under Fran McCaffery struggle to close seasons strong. During his tenure, the Hawkeyes are 26-37 over the final seven regular-season games, and they have won just three Big Ten Tournament games over McCaffery’s nine seasons.

Tonight Iowa will again give it the old college try. Tipoff against Illinois in Chicago is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

So, no, it’s not a clean slate for the Hawkeyes. It is, however, an opportunity to show they can take a punch, even if that punch comes from their own fist. Because the one thing Iowa hasn’t been over the last month is resilient. Their coach gets himself suspended for a couple of games, they fold. Nebraska fights back from a double-digit deficit, they fold. Calls aren’t going their way, they fold.

Tonight’s game offers a step toward Iowa’s redemption. Lose, and it’s more of the same. The higher the stakes, the greater the chance of losing.

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Win, however, and maybe they can start to shift their narrative. Maybe they can even win a second game. Maybe they’ll win an NCAA Tournament game. There’s no reason to be confident, but that’s why the narrative needs to shift in the first place: other than the fact they’re playing 20-loss Illinois, what signs point to a Hawkeye win?

Are there any?

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OK, Ok – enough rehashing of Iowa’s recent struggles. We know they’re not in a good place right now, but if we could momentarily realign our focus, think about what it would do to your morale and point of view as a fan if the Hawkeyes pumped the breaks on this poorly timed skid.

As fans, it’s no fun to go into a big game – and yes, tonight’s a big game even if it is against Illinois – without hope, without the tiniest shred of optimism, even when the Hawkeyes aren’t providing us much to go on.

So maybe the University of Iowa public-relationship pro who came up with CLEAN SLATE IN CHI-TOWN had a point. Realistically, there’s every reason to think Illinois will upset Iowa tonight, even though it wouldn’t be much of an upset at this point. But where’s the fun in that? So, yeah – clean slate. Why not?

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At this point in the season, one does what one must to trick themselves into looking for the silver lining. For the Hawkeyes, the silver lining is that there might be some mystical dividing line between the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament.

Let’s hope.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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