Schwartz: Ten Sentences – The Most Important Edition

February 23, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

On any given night the Hawkeyes can beat any college basketball team in the country. Heck, if Iowa played the Los Angeles Lakers 100,000 times, they might catch them one night when LeBron and Anthony Davis are both out and somehow magically pull out a win. But there’s one team in the basketball galaxy that you should never, ever expect Iowa to beat.

1. So here we are, two days away from Iowa’s game at Michigan State, the one team in the universe that the Hawkeyes can’t beat, and yet if they do they’ll find themselves in excellent position to compete for a second-place, regular-season Big Ten finish.

2. It’s only fitting that the team standing between Iowa and a remarkable regular season is the Spartans.

3. There’s no need to go into this again in any great detail, so let’s briefly recap: Michigan State owns the Hawkeyes – they’re in Iowa’s head so deep that it’s amazing the Hawkeyes have beaten them at all over the last two decades; no matter how high the Hawkeyes nor how down the Spartans might be during a given year, throw out the records, because what you’re going to see on the floor will have nothing to do with records, only reputation and expectations.

4. Tuesday in East Lansing, Michigan, at the Breslin Student Events Center the Hawkeyes play their most important game of the Fran McCaffery era.

5. That’s neither exaggeration nor hyperbole, nor does it mean that Iowa hasn’t previously played a “most important game” of the McCaffery ERA, it’s just that over time the goalposts move; the first most-important game was the first game; a few years later the most-important game became one that impacted the NIT, and then a chance to finally return to the NCAA Tournament.

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6. Now the Hawkeyes have reached a new milestone under McCaffery – a chance to climb into the top two of the Big Ten – which is something they haven’t done in more than a decade, and certainly not under McCaffery, which makes Tuesday’s game the latest most important game.

7. And who knows: maybe next year or three years from now the most important game will be one that lands the Hawkeyes a regular-season title or a Big Ten Tournament championship, and if we can dream, maybe someday it will be for a trip to the Final Four – or more.

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8. Presently the Hawkeyes and Spartans are tied for third in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Penn State, the team Iowa plays right after they play Michigan State, and while there’s no guarantee the Hawkeyes win that game, it will be played at Carver-Hawkeye Arena during a season in which Big Ten teams have struggled mightily to win on the road.

9. A first-place finish, while still mathematically possible, is unlikely given Maryland’s dominance and substantial conference lead, so we take what we can get: a potential second-place finish.

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10. By 8 p.m. Tuesday night we’ll know where the Hawkeyes stand, and even if they lose it won’t mean the season is a failure – to the contrary, the Hawkeyes have exceeded expectations and McCaffery deserves conference coach-of-the-year consideration, but if they win Tuesday, it will represent something more, something special, perhaps the start of something new, and if not that, if the Hawkeyes slip a few spots in the Big Ten next year, at least they’ll have the rarest of jewels: a meaningful win over Michigan State.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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