Five games in five days? That’s the goal for Iowa hoops


The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

Iowa forward Tyler Cook drives the ball in the lane against Northwestern's Derek Pardon during the Senior Day men's basketball game between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 77-70. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to March 12, 2011.

The Connecticut Huskies take down the Louisville Cardinals, 69-66, in the Big East Championship game. The Huskies, a 9-seed in the tournament, won five games in five days en route to the conference title.

Kemba Walker, now the starting point guard for the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA, led UConn’s improbable run from a 9-seed to a conference championship to an NCAA Championship. He was the catalyst for the run, one that will go down in ages as one of the best in all of sport.

“[Walker is] not available, I don’t think,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery joked during the Hawkeyes’ practice on Monday.

All kidding aside, Iowa could learn a lot from that Connecticut team.

Granted, the Huskies had a 21-9 record entering the Big East Tournament — a bit of an improvement from Iowa’s 13-18 mark this season — but it’s important to realize that there’s a chance, no matter how small, to run the table.

“I think it’s important to bring up that it has happened, that it’s doable,” McCaffery said.

Iowa doesn’t have any players on its roster ready to enter the NBA at this moment, but Jordan Bohannon said he’s up to the task of playing the role of Walker in a Hawkeye uniform.

“If that’s what it takes,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to try to get five wins. It’s going to take one win at a time. To win five, you got to win the first one.”

But getting that first one has been an issue for Iowa — a glaring issue.

The Hawkeyes haven’t won a game in the Big Ten Tournament since the 2012-13 season, when the Black and Gold toppled Northwestern, 73-59. Since then, it’s been four-straight years of one-and-done for McCaffery and Company, but there’s a solid chance Iowa can come away with a victory today in New York City.

Iowa gets a rematch with Illinois, one of just four Big Ten teams it has beaten this season.

That win came on Jan. 11, when Iowa cranked out a come-from-behind overtime victory, 104-97. The Illini led by 20 at point in the first half, but the Hawkeyes chipped away at the deficit thanks to Bohannon, Tyler Cook, and Luka Garza.

Bohannon dropped 29 points, including five 3-pointers, and Cook and Garza added 21 and 19, and both big men snagged double-doubles (13 rebounds for Cook, 11 for Garza).

A lot has happened since that game; Iowa had dropped six games in a row before taking down Northwestern, 77-70, in the final game of the regular season. Illinois took down Nebraska, the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, on Feb. 18 but dropped its final two games to Michigan State and Purdue — two of the country’s best programs.

Anything can happen come postseason play, and, even though it’s not quite yet March, madness it upon us.

If it wants any shot at playing after the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa needs to win out. As McCaffery said, it’s doable, but it won’t be easy.

To repeat success like Connecticut had in the Big East Tournament in 2011, Iowa needs to keep its focus on Illinois first.

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