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Schwartz: Ten Sentences – The Iowa Basketball Stretch Edition

January 19, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Oh boy – here we go. The Hawkeye men’s basketball will reveal a lot about themselves over the next couple of weeks. Ten sentences:

1. A little over a week ago I was part of a chorus of voices frustrated with Iowa, which had just lost to Nebraska and – here we go again – were fumbling their way through the early part of the Big Ten schedule.

2. Was it an unfair reaction to losing to Nebraska?

3. Hard to say – perhaps, since they were just learning how to play without Jordan Bohannon and there were reports of players battling various ailments around and during that game – but it was probably a fair reaction given what we’ve learned over the years about Fran McCaffery’s Iowa teams and Big Ten play.

4. Yet here we are, a couple of days removed from their considerable win against Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and few days from their home game Wednesday against Rutgers and the Hawkeyes find themselves on a three-game win streak and tied for fourth in the conference at 4-3 with four other teams, a sign of the Big Ten’s parity thus far.

5. All of which means the Hawkeyes now find themselves at a pivotal moment in the season – again – in which how they play over the next month will define how we’ll remember this team.

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6. That last statement was meant matter-of-factly, not dramatically, more as a reminder that the one hump McCaffery teams have never figured out is how to avoid the miserable 2-3 week stretch in which hope turns to misery and, even if they recover at some point, its memory lingers and keeps us from daydreaming about deep run into the Big Ten Tournament and beyond.

7. Yep – this is that moment, a four-game stretch against Rutgers, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Illinois, two of which are ahead of Iowa in the standings and two of which are tied; three of those four games are at home and, even with what we know about the ability of Big Ten home teams to protect their courts this season, anything less than a 3-1 record between now and Feb. 2 would be nothing short of disastrous (within a basketball context).

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8. We have no idea what’s going to happen between now and then, because not only are the McCaffery Hawkeyes annually unpredictable in late January and February, the Big Ten itself this season has been, for lack of a more nuanced word, weird.

9. And not just because Illinois and Rutgers sit in the second and third spots; in addition to the home-team over-dominance thing, we’ve got Michigan (ranked No. 4 by the AP just seven weeks ago) and Ohio State (ranked No. 2 only a month ago) crumbling, sitting 11th and 12th, respectively in the Big Ten, with only Nebraska and Northwestern behind them.

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10. I think(?) the Big Ten is pretty good – who knows? – so mostly any win is a valuable win for the Hawkeyes, and they seem to be a pretty good team at the moment – who knows? – so I guess I’m 72 percent optimistic that they’ll survive this upcoming stretch – who knows? – so let’s just bring it on, cross our fingers, and enjoy the ride.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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