Must-win time for Hawkeyes?

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The Daily Iowan

Iowa center Adam Woodbury grabs a rebound against Augustana in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. The Vikings defeated the Hawkeyes, 76-74. (The Daily Iowan/Joshua Housing)

 

The Iowa men’s basketball team can help itself by beating Indiana tonight.

Iowa has lost four of its last five games, including an outing in Bloomington in which the Hawkeyes were sent packing, 85-78, on Feb. 11.

That game started the Hawkeyes’ struggles, as the bench failed to score, the end-of-game execution was poor, and the jump shots simply weren’t falling.

Those trends have continued recently and have shown in a narrow win over Minnesota, followed by three losses in winnable games against Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

But Indiana is easily the best opponent the Hawkeyes have faced recently.

Yogi Ferrell is an All-American and NBA-caliber player, and with the likes of Thomas Bryant, Max Bielfeldt, and Troy Williams surrounding him, the Hoosiers, especially as hot as they are now, will be a tough out.

The game has the added bonus of serving as the regular-season Big Ten title-elimination game. Indiana already has a share, but Iowa can claim a share of the title for the first time in decades.

A loss, and the Hawkeyes are eliminated from contention for the title. A win, however, brings Indiana back a step, and a Hoosier slip-up in their finale against Maryland could see Iowa take a slice of the championship pie.

Tonight carries the added bonus of ending the Carver-Hawkeye careers of seniors Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons, and Okey Ukah.

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“I’m going to approach this game like it’s the next game on the schedule,” McCaffery said. “I don’t get into the emotional side of it. I’m on the record that we should do away with Senior Day.”

He’s not suggesting not honoring a senior class instrumental in turning around a program nearly dead in the water. Rather, he would like to focus on the game itself and honor the players at the team’s end of the year banquet.

“They’re just winning people,” He said. “Everything they do is character based … I’m so proud to be their coach. I wish it wasn’t the last game, I’ll tell you that.”

And rightfully, they should focus on the game. The ramifications are immense already, because the Hawkeyes have zero margin for error in terms of seeding for both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

Iowa projects as a fifth seed in most NCAA bracket guesses at the moment, making a run in the NCAA Tournament immensely more difficult than as the No. 1 seed they were for a stretch earlier in the year.

A win over the Hoosiers can go a long way in turning around a season on the brink of disaster.

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