There’s an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
That’s why I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. There’s nothing left to be said about Iowa basketball that hasn’t already been said a dozen times. I mean, if we’re being honest, I’ll likely be just like everyone else and try to spend the next two month talking about it because there is nothing else to talk about, but it’s exhausting repeating the same stuff after watching the same game over and over again. It’s insanity.
A week ago, I sat here and praised the fire and fight I saw out of this group of Hawkeyes for the first time all year in their comeback win at Illinois. Now, just seven days later, we’ve seen two more games like all the rest. It’s insanity.
Worse yet, I’m not really sure which was more so to be honest. The first, a 16-point loss at fellow bottom-dweller Rutgers was infuriating for a number of reasons. First and foremost the team was coming off their first conference win of the year. They had tasted success and had an opportunity to build on that.
They did the complete opposite. They came out flat as usual and at no point in the game did they actually look like they had an interest in even being there. All that fire and fight from the second half against Illinois was entirely gone. The same group of players that walked into the vaunted Louis Brown Athletic Center and demolished Rutgers by 20 points without Peter Jok looked lost on both offense and defense for 40 minutes on Wednesday.
The most frustrating thing about a performance like that was the lack of fight in the face of the adversity. It wasn’t just that the offense stalled out again, it was that the defense was left in Iowa City. Again. Rutgers is not a team full of better players than those on the Hawkeye roster. They’re a team full of players who wanted to win more than the Hawkeyes. The recurring theme is hard to fathom.
It continued on Saturday against Purdue. While a loss against a team as talented as the Boilermakers was to be expected, the complete lack of effort yet again is infuriating as a fan. Not because you want and expect to see it every game out of a group of kids capable of doing so (you do), but because of the circumstances surrounding the game.
As has been so well documented, Saturday’s contest included an honor for the 25th anniversary of Chris Street’s passing. In addition to the whiteout by the fans, who actually showed up in good numbers despite the lackluster effort they’ve seen from this team all season, and the presence of former coach Tom Davis, Street’s parents and his jersey along the bench, there was an incredible halftime tribute.
It’s been said over and over that the reason Street is so revered and remembered so fondly among Hawkeye fans is not because he was such an incredible player, it’s because of how he played the game - with such joy and energy and effort at all times. With all the “extra stuff” surrounding the game, you would have hoped to see this team exude some of that same energy and effort and passion Street was known for.
They did precisely the opposite. Again. There was no energy. There was no offense. There was less than no defense. It was brutal and Purdue won by 23 in a game they could have won by 50 if they wanted. It was so bad, at one point ESPN decided TV viewers might be more entertained by an empty NBA arena. I was.
ESPN was airing Purdue-Iowa, and then the broadcast got interrupted by an empty Cavs arena pic.twitter.com/sgeSSsFXs6— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 20, 2018
It’s frustrating and I don’t know that I can sit here another two months writing the same story after every. Single. Game.
It’s gotten to the point now where the national media is starting to notice. During the broadcast, announcer Dan Dakich, noted enemy of Iowa fans everywhere, pulled no punches in discussing the energy from the Hawkeyes over and over.
He commented on the uncontested shots. He commented on the lack of flow. He commented on the bad body language and lack of caring.
He was right.
Dakich just calling Iowa out on all of their horrible body language and I'm glad he's doing it.— BlackHeartGoldPants (@BHGP) January 20, 2018
At this point, I don’t expect anything to change. If staying out of the Big Ten basement isn’t enough to put forth some effort, what is? If playing for Chris Street’s legacy isn’t enough, what is? If playing for your own pride and dignity isn’t enough, what is?
I don’t know how you fix it. I don’t know that you can. Many have been quick to place all the blame on head coach Fran McCaffery. Some have gone so far as to call for his head. Neither are right.
Fran has built up enough goodwill over his first seven seasons that calling for him to be fired after this one brutal season is ridiculous and completely ignorant of both where Iowa was when he arrived and where they appear headed in the next few years with his recruiting. Another season like this one and sure, you can start the conversation, but anything sooner is premature.
Placing all the blame on him for the effort, or lack thereof, of his players is nearly as ridiculous. Should there be a tone set from the top? Sure. Is anyone questioning whether that’s been done? If so, have you ever actually watched an Iowa game?
Are there also some things for which McCaffery deserves criticism? Absolutely. He has without question wasted too many first halves tinkering with rotations and trying to find a mix of players that gel together. He’s slow to call timeouts during runs and has done a poor job of making adjustments to what his team has given him.
But how many times have we heard guys walk into the post-game interviews and talk about not giving enough consistent effort and not following the gameplan? How many times have you watched with your own eyes as guys have looked totally disinterested in playing any semblance of defense?
There may be questions about what exactly is practiced (or not), but outside of benching anyone not going hard, what do you expect Fran to do in those situations? I mean seriously, the man can only yell so much and half the fans and media will jump his ass for doing that.
If he were to go the route of just benching guys not going hard so as to prove a point, who would be left? Luka Garza? Maybe Tyler Cook? I guess Jordan Bohannon and Nicholas Baer might get a few minutes here and there. Can he actually field a team for 40 minutes? I doubt it.
It shouldn’t fall on a coach to get his players fired up. If you’re playing Division-1 hoops at the high major level, you should be perfectly capable of walking onto the court every 3-4 days and playing hard. You should be capable of giving effort on defense, even if you’re in the wrong place at times. You should be capable executing a gameplan that’s been given to you. You should have enough pride to try to not be embarrassed by your peers at other schools.
You should, but so far we haven’t seen that from anyone on this Hawkeye team. It’s insanity.