Last call for sagging Hawkeyes

Iowa+guard+Jarrod+Uthoff+lays+the+ball+up+against+Minnesota+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+14%2C+2016+in+Carver-Hawkeye+in+Iowa+City%2C+IA.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Gophers%2C+75-71.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FJoshua+Housing%29

Iowa guard Jarrod Uthoff lays the ball up against Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 in Carver-Hawkeye in Iowa City, IA. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers, 75-71. (The Daily Iowan/Joshua Housing)

If the Hawkeyes are going to make any noise this March, they need to get started on Saturday.
By Kyle Mann | [email protected]

 

The 2015-16 regular season will come to an end for the Iowa basketball team on Saturday, when it travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.

Iowa has already lost its chance for a Big Ten title, butSaturday’s game, in many ways, is a must-win regardless.

It’s a general rule of thumb that teams want to play their best as they enter tournament time, and the hot teams end up making deep runs in March. The Hawkeyes, losers of their last four, are ice cold.

A fifth-straight loss to end the season would be a devastating conclusion to what was once supposed to be Iowa’s chance to vie for national superiority. A strong showing in a victory would be exactly what the Hawkeyes need to enter the Big Ten Tournament with some confidence and also renew hope among fans who are desperate to believe this team hasn’t collapsed.

Luckily for the Hawkeyes, they walked away from their last loss to Indiana on Tuesday feeling as though they had returned to form.

“We played well,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We lost to a really, really good team.”

In some ways, the Hawkeyes played better than they had in other games during the skid. They got back to shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc, increased team assists, and turned the ball over fewer than 10 times for the first time in three games.

But while there were some positives, there were just as many negatives. Indiana was able to shoot 50 percent from beyond the arc and from the field, and despite improving from distance, the Hawkeyes shot a dreadful 39 percent as a whole. And then there’s the whole “losing the game” thing.

After the game, however, the Hawks curiously concentrated solely on the positives.

“I think we’re going to turn this around,” Mike Gesell said. “We’ve already made tons of strides.”

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Iowa’s veteran squad is well-known to be as experienced and composed as any team in the country, and the vets’ ability to focus on positives rather than the negatives is at least a little bit admirable.

But ultimately, as shown against Indiana, the Hawkeyes are still coming up short. If they are so insistent that the team’s issues have been addressed and that they’re going to be fine for win-or-go-home situations, it’d be nice to see it materialize in their final dry run.

“When we’re clicking, we’re one of the toughest teams in the country,” Jarrod Uthoff said. “I’ve said it since Day 1, that hasn’t changed just because we lost a couple in a row.”

Again, the team’s confidence is admirable, but one can’t help but wonder if the Hawkeyes are even capable of “clicking” again this late in the season. They’ve lost more than just a couple in a row (four), five of their last six, and haven’t scored 80 points (their previous average) in eight games.

Iowa’s faith in itself may be curious as the losses pile up, and only time will tell if it is unjustified. It won’t be impossible for the Hawkeyes turn it around, especially if they allegedly already have, but this weekend is the last chance to prove it.

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