Just win and nothing else matters. That’s what we’ve always heard. It doesn’t matter how you get it done, just so long as you get it done. If you win the games, the rest will take care of itself.
That’s what Iowa has been doing. It hasn’t always been pretty, but they’ve been winning. The Hawkeyes found themselves down to an average Northwestern team, but found a way to come back. A week later, they found themselves in a dog fight with a less than average Rutgers team, albeit in a hostile environment. And they again found a (miraculous) way to win.
You could argue on one hand that makes the Hawkeyes a very lucky team. They were in a position to lose in back-to-back games and managed to escape the jaws of defeat with a victory. A loss in either of those games would have been a major setback in Iowa’s goals for the season. Instead, Hawkeye fans, after decades of watching miraculous shots fall for their opponents, watched Iowa players knock down shots that were hard to believe.
On the other hand, you could argue that those two game-winners are examples of a characteristic this team possesses which few have before. Faced with a massive hole, they didn’t give in; they fought through adversity and when they had an opportunity to get a win, they seized it. Faced with a dagger to the heart with just three seconds left on Saturday night, they stayed composed, reached deep inside and pulled out a corner three from a true freshman.
You asked, we delivered. pic.twitter.com/N2YVHmBHuF— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 17, 2019
It was an incredible sequence of events. It’s a shot that if taken a hundred times, doesn’t go in off glass more than once. I suppose that could almost justify some of the comments from Rutgers players after the game.
“If he shoots that shot a million times, that’s the only one that’s going in,” said Ron Harper Jr., a guy who went 4 or 5 from beyond the arc in the first half despite shooting - checks notes - 22% from three on the season before that half (in fact, a full 19% of Ron Harper Jr.’s 3-point makes all season came in the first half of Saturday’s contest).
He went on to tell ESPN “He makes a bank shot over a 7-footer in the corner so, you know, it’s just a lucky shot. But we’ll see them again in two weeks.” Just to clarify, Just Joe Wieskamp is shooting 45% from three on the season (that’s twice as good as Ron Harper Jr. for those of you who haven’t yet had your coffee). He’s particularly good from the corner, so saying it was purely luck that helped that shot go in is frankly idiotic sour grapes. It was a good play by a good player on a good team. The luckiest part about the shot was the fact it hit the backboard and didn’t simply go in as it does nearly half the itmes Joe Wieskamp shoots it from deep.
Harper wasn’t the only one who seemed to be frustrated by losing to Iowa. Geo Baker, who hit what we all thought would be the game winner, also had some parting words from Piscataway.
"We’re going to go get them... I don’t usually say stuff like that but we’re going to go get them. Hearing them celebrate, their locker room is right next to ours and you can just hear them celebrate while we’re all quiet... We're going to get them" Rutgers guard Geo Baker— David Eickholt (@DEickholt247) February 17, 2019
That’s a perfectly fine thing to think to yourself as you prepare for the next game, but not something you should say out loud. At least, not when you’re on a team that’s lost more games than it’s won. Not about a team that hasn’t lost this month and managed to beat you on your home floor despite nearly everything going your way.
But that line of thinking, the complete lack of respect for Iowa, seems to be quite prevalent in the college basketball world. So much so that the old adage about just winning doesn’t seem to apply to the Hawkeyes.
I suppose in the most literal sense it does. If Iowa were to win every single game they played, they would win a national title. But in today’s world, it’s quite unrealistic to think any team will simply win all its games. Yet it seems that’s just what the Hawkeyes will need to do in order to actually gain some national respect.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have won 20 basketball games this season. That’s more than all but 20 or so teams in the country. They haven’t lost a game outside the first quadrant in the NCAA’s new system all season and haven’t lost at all in three weeks. Despite expectations of a February swoon, the Hawkeyes are undefeated in the month.
And yet, we’re likely to watch this Iowa team fall in the rankings, just as they did last week after wining at Indiana and on Jordan Bohannon’s thrilling buzzer beater. Sure, teams in front of them actually lost, but this is Iowa and for some reason, that seems to matter. A close win against a quadrant two team is worse than a loss to a quadrant one team, apparently.
Today marks the beginning of a new week. Not just a new workweek, but a new week of rankings and brackets released. As Hawkeye fans wait with bated breath to see where Iowa is slated, we should expect to be disappointed and frustrated.
As of Sunday, BracketMatrix.com, a site which compiles a number of brackets from across the web, had Iowa firmly on the 6 line. In fact, they show the Hawkeyes as the lowest ranked 6th seed. Among the teams sitting in front of Iowa are a slew of teams who, if you compare resumes, look to be almost identical or even worse than the Hawkeyes.
One team, for example, has the same record as Iowa, one more quadrant 4 win, three fewer quadrant 1 games and one fewer win, but has managed to lose a pair of quadrant 2 games. Yet they are planted in front of Iowa by nearly every metric, including the brackets.
Another team sits a whole seed line ahead of the Hawkeyes in most brackets and two in some. They’re also significantly in front of them in most rankings. That’s all despite being .500 in quadrant 1, just like Iowa, in 2 fewer games, playing the same number of quadrant 4 games and losing two games in quadrant 2. Oh, and they lost head-to-head to Iowa.
The primary culprit, it seems, is just how bad some of the quadrant 4 teams Iowa has played have been. That seems ridiculous to put on paper, that the reason a team is ranked poorly is the bad teams they played were really bad. And yet, when you look at the resumes, it’s hard to find another answer.
That doesn’t however, explain why Iowa continues to slide in the polls despite continuing to win. Teams around them have more losses, worse losses and fewer quality wins, yet Iowa is likely to find themselves still ranked 21st at best today.
I’m inclined to fall into the trap of saying they need to ignore the noise and just win. Iowa does, after all, have four of their six remaining games against quadrant one opponents. They could add another if Indiana could get their stuff together. But it’s becoming more and more obvious that simply winning isn’t enough for this team to climb substantially in the rankings.
What it can do, however, is help them climb in the Big Ten standings. As of today, Iowa is in fifth place, a half game behind Maryland. It just so happens they host Maryland on Tuesday night. A win there and they’re sitting in the top 4 with a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
That’s quite the spot to be, even if they continue to get no respect nationally. That will have to come if the Hawkeyes can do what they’ve been doing in February - winning close games with clutch shots and avoiding losses altogether.
They’ll need to avoid the stretches of poor defense and the lack of rebounding. That’s something we saw them do for most of the season so it’s safe to assume they’ll figure things out in the home stretch, especially with everything they’re playing for. It’s also safe to assume the outside noise will get to them at some point. This feels like a team that will feed off the negativity. From the comments made by Tyler Cook about fans leaving to some of the tweets from assistant coaches about people finding flaws, this seems like a group that will use anything to fuel their run.
Expect plenty of fuel as Iowa just continues to win. More so if they need more late game heroics to do it. At some point, the rest of the country is going to realize the luck is talent, and it takes a whole lot of both to do well in March. This Iowa team is ready for any madness you can throw at them.
Happy Monday. Here’s hoping you take this week to the bank. Let’s get some turtle soup come Tuesday night, and hopefully earn some respect.