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Commentary: Hawkeyes amazingly blow another one

BY TOM CLOS | FEBRUARY 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team’s resurrection tour has made the rounds throughout Big Ten country this season, bringing outplayed opponents back from the depths of despair to the sudden joys of victory.

Its latest stop? Minneapolis.

The Hawkeyes had the ball, along with a 59-57 lead, an advantage they had not relinquished in more than 12 minutes on Sunday. Fran McCaffery, like any good coach, decided to put the ball in his, or what was supposed to be coming into this season, best player’s hands to run the clock down and sink the big late-game shot the team has been begging for since conference play began.

But Devyn Marble, in what has become an Iowa City tradition this season, deferred the crucial possession and threw the ball away into the second-row with 39 seconds left, giving Minnesota the ball back down 2. It was the perfect cherry on top of a 0-point afternoon for the junior guard.

One predictable defensive lapse by Iowa and an Austin Hollins 3-pointer dagger with 12 seconds left later, and the Hawkeyes never recovered — eventually falling 62-59.

And so, like against Indiana, Michigan State, and even lowly Purdue, the Black and Gold wilted in the crunch time of a winnable game and allowed their opponents to drive yet another nail into the proverbial coffin that is their NCAA Tournament hopes.

The moment Mike Gesell’s last second game-tying 3-point attempt glanced off the Williams Arena basket, the resurrection was complete; Iowa had successfully brought the Golden Gophers back to life.

It was an amazing feat, seeing that the Hawkeyes’ opponents were all but dead just a minute earlier.

What was more amazing was how dead the Hawkeyes themselves were a minute later.

Résumé boosters scarce rest of the way

Playing in the nation’s toughest conference makes it difficult for a team not to run into a résumé-boosting victory or two at some point, especially with the amount of talent Iowa seemingly possesses.

But somehow the calendar has flipped to February, and the notable wins are still not there to warrant even an ESPN NCAA Tournament “Bubble Watch” let alone an at-large bid for the Black and Gold.
In other words, Iowa is in big trouble, and time is running out.

Through nine conference games, five of which were against top-30 RPI teams, Iowa has claimed just one victory of note-— a 70-66 win over Wisconsin (RPI: 50) Jan. 19. Even that win has been diminished since the Badgers have lost two more times following their trip to Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes will have three more chances to get a signature win under their belts: at Wisconsin on Wednesday, home against Minnesota (RPI: 10), and at Indiana (RPI: 9). The Black and Gold will probably need to win at least two of those for any realistic shot at the tournament come Selection Sunday.

Outside of that trio of contests, Iowa plays Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska (twice), and Illinois. All six of those games are essentially “win or else” for the Hawkeyes, and a loss in any will most likely serve as the death knell for the Black and Gold.

If its still sort of hazy about where the Hawkeyes stand in regards to their NCAA Tournament hopes, just consider this:

The team’s most prominent triumph to date is their 80-71 home win over Iowa State (RPI: 40) back on Dec. 7.

At this point in the season and with the conference they are in, that’s a tough thing to accomplish.

Much like blowing a 2-point lead with the ball in the final minute.


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