All right, playtime's over. Time to get after it. After a moderately difficult non-conference schedule, the Big Ten slate kicks off for the Hawkeyes tonight as they face Purdue, who is currently ranked 4th in both polls. It has been a long, long time since Iowa's been ranked that high, and it'll probably be a long time before that ever gets reached.
We're more than slightly pessimistic; there isn't a player on Iowa's roster who would log more than 10 minutes a game for the Boilermakers, and there isn't a Boilermaker starter who wouldn't be the immediate superstar of the team if he were plugged into the Iowa lineup. Keaton Grant averages 6.6 a game for Purdue. He'd get about 25 a game for Iowa just because he'd be the best scorer on the team by miles.
Or, to look at it another way, JaJuan Johnson is 6'10" and very athletic. Who, on Iowa, would you choose to guard him? He'd run circles around Brennan Cougill, and he could just outjump the 6'5" Aaron Fuller on entry passes if Fuller fronted him. We would suggest Andrew Brommer, just for the spectacle of abuse that would ensue, but Brommer doesn't deserve that. Nobody does.
Then there's Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer, who show the world that white men can play good basketball outside the state of North Carolina, and who will make sure Iowa does not get a single uncontested shot. Hummel and Kramer are both excellent players. Nobody on Iowa is excellent right now, and subjecting Matt Gatens to experiencing Purdue's play will probably only make him sad and wistful.
RealTimeRPI.com charitably offers Iowa a 28.2% chance of winning this game; something tells us that if these two teams were scheduled to play 100 times in a row, Iowa wouldn't win nearly 28 of them (especially because after game 3 or so, the two teams would see the general idiocy behind the plan and just give up. Also, Jim Delany would be very, very fired).
Allow us to offer a slightly different prognosis for the game and the oncoming season: Iowa is fucked. Without getting into that tiresome "how fucked are we" contest that overran the comments like so much aggressive kudzu during the football season, we'll just note that there seems to be no apparent way that Iowa beats 6 of the other 10 members of the conference. The lone teams that Iowa might potentially beat would be the following:
- Indiana: 6-6, and spent their last two games enduring a home loss to Loyola (MD), then losing leading scorer Maurice Creek for the season to a serious knee injury (initial prognosis: appendicitis of the knee) (we are not licensed doctors and have been ordered to stay out of hospitals in 4 different states). They might suck as badly as Iowa.
Michigan: 5-5, and 1-4 away from home (including a blowout loss against a simply dreadful Utah squad). Like Lickliter, John Beilein is struggling with importing his system to a team that lacks across-the-board talent, depth, and general mental acuity. Both games against Iowa are must-watch, must-DVR events, mainly because you may never again see two teams more deserving of relegation to one of those weird conferences with 4 letters in their abbreviation actually facing each other. The meager crowds should basically be assumed to be on suicide watch during the entire game, and soft drinks over 6 ounces must not be served on account of the possibility of fans trying to drown themselves as jumper after jumper goes clanging off the side of the backboard, and pass after pass go flying into the empty courtside seats.
Penn State: 8-4, but against a truly reprehensible schedule. We would say there's functionally no difference between a sub-200 RPI team and a sub-300 team when it comes to providing a challenge to a Big Ten team, but the Nitty Kitties actually lost to #220 Tulane. They did beat Sacred Heart, whom I would have bet large sums of money was not a real D-I school (bad news: they are real, and substantially outrank PSU and Iowa thus far)
Northwestern: 10-1 and #25 in the country, but no fucking way. They're still just Northwestern and they will implode shortly. It's preordained.
If this all seems like the sort of excessively maudlin sandbagging that one normally finds at the bottom of a bottle of the Swedish Goose, I wish. I mainly wish that because that would mean I was drunk right now. Oh, and also the whole Iowa being better at basketball thing.
Alas, no; the College Basketball Prospectus predicts just two wins in the conference for the Hawkeyes (if you'd listened to our podcast with John Gasaway, you'd know that), and RealTimeRPI's projections show the same. It's getting to the point where just going 4-14 would seem like a remarkable improvement on expectations, and 6-12 would be cause for a ticker tape parade. Across America.
And besides, even for the optimists among us who want to believe that Iowa will put together a shockingly competent BXI slate, we'll remind you that games are not won or lost in columns on the online internet (that's the one with e-mail), they're decided on the court. That all starts now, and we're pretty sure it's all about to suuuuuuuuuck.