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Iowa Basketball: Hawkeyes hope to turn things around in Big Ten Tournament

Iowa junior Josh Oglesby, right, will be a key component to the Hawkeyes' run in the Big Ten Conference Tournament this weekend. The Hawks began play at 8 p.m. Thursday against Northwestern.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

What is wrong with the Iowa men’s basketball team?

Is it fatigue? Is it bad chemistry? Are they just tired of playing Big Ten Conference competition? Or do the issues run much deeper? And how much did the postponed game against Indiana throw this team off?

While we may never quite know for sure what is currently wrong, the Hawkeyes still have time to right the ship. They have a chance to put the losing skid behind them.

“We we're not as in sync as we were, and I'm hopeful that we've been able to go back to some of the basic things that we needed to fix,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “

Iowa (20-11) played itself into a Thursday game by losing five of its last six games after starting Big Ten play 8-4. The losing streak allowed Nebraska to move into a first-round bye and the Hawks will now have to win four games in four days to claim the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship.

It’s been done before. But not many outside Iowa’s locker room think that’s realistic at this point.

But does it have to be?

Iowa is in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens against Northwestern at 8 p.m. Thursday night. Iowa was ranked all season long, passes the eye test and will play in its first NCAA Tournament since 2006. That is not up for debate in my opinion.

And quite frankly that also was the goal coming into the game. No one expected this Hawkeye team to make the Final Four. The fan base wasn’t even sure they would win a game in the tourney. Getting there was the only expectation and that will happen.

So why are many viewing this Iowa season as a disappointment? Those people took the bait from the national talking heads who talked about the Hawkeyes being the deepest team in the Big Ten and a Final Four darkhorse.

“I think you can get caught up in what everybody's saying,” said McCaffery. “That's why I don't look at that. You know, I just try to keep working and keep getting my guys ready, you can tell them, don't look at it. They are going to look at it. It's just how they live now.

“And as to whether or not it directly affected anybody, I don't know, but I wouldn't dismiss the possibility.”

Being talked about is great, but the players may have been listening to the praise, too. All of the sudden, a solid defensive team through the first 20 games forgot how to stay in front of its opponents in the final month.

The good news though is that Iowa can make all the negativity disappear with an impressive showing this weekend. And winning a few games in the Big Dance would only add to a strong finish.

“I would say this, that any time you have an opportunity to play in an event of this caliber, I think that's going to make everybody pretty excited,” said McCaffery. “As it relates to what happened the previous game, the previous five games, the previous 15 games, I don't think that matters, no.”

I think Iowa beats Northwestern (13-18). The Hawkeyes seem to have solved the Wildcats puzzle with two fairly easy wins already in the bag this year.

That puts Iowa at 21-11 and gives it another crack at Michigan State in the quarterfinals. A win against the Spartans can essentially guarantee the Hawkeyes will not be in the 8-9 game. That avoids a No. 1 seed in Round 2 and will give them a better chance to advance into the Sweet 16, somewhere Iowa has not been since Tom Davis was the coach in Iowa City.

“I don't think that our guys have ever done that,” said McCaffery about overlooking the Wildcats in round one. “I think we're mature enough to know and understand. I think we're respectful of that program. We've had some very difficult games with them. Everybody knows how good Drew Crawford is.”

The only question that remains is which Iowa team shows up in Indianapolis? Will the team that should have, could have, would have beaten top-ranked Villanova in the Bahamas or Iowa State in Ames. Or will it be the Hawkeye squad that gave up 95 points to Minnesota, 93 points to Indiana or allowed a game-winning 3 to drop against Illinois?

At 8 p.m. Thursday, fans will definitely know that answer.

“I think the encouraging thing for us is this particular team has played excellent defense this year,” said McCaffery. “And that's what our goal is, to go back and play that kind of defense again.”

Roy Devyn Marble named to two All-District teams

Iowa senior Roy Devyn Marble was named to the District 7 first team by the National Association of Basketball Coaches on Wednesday.

It was the third straight day Marble earned a national honor. He was named first-team all-Big team on Monday and then was recognized on the USBWA All-District VI team on Tuesday.

A native of Southfield, Mich., Marble became the first Hawkeye since Adam Haluska in 2007 to garner all-district accolades. He is averaging 17 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game through 31 games.

He is the only conference player to average 17 or more points and collect more than 55 steals. In all games, Marble ranks fifth in the league in steals, sixth in scoring and 10th in assists. In Big Ten games only, he ranked second in scoring (18.3).

Joining Marble on the five-player squad is Nik Stauskas (Michigan); Terran Petteway (Nebraska); Gary Harris (Michigan State); and Yogi Ferrell (Indiana). The five-player second team was comprised of Adreain Payne (Michigan State); Keith Appling (Michigan State); D.J. Newbill (Penn State); Drew Crawford (Northwestern); and Aaron Craft (Ohio State).

The 252 student-athletes, including Marble, from 25 districts, are eligible for the NABC Coaches’ Division I All-America teams.

Joining Marble on the 10-player United Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-District VI team is Cleanthony Early (Wichita State); Melvin Ejim (Iowa State); Joel Embiid (Kansas); DeAndre Kane (Iowa State); Doug McDermott (Creighton); Petteway (Nebraska); Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State); Fred VanVleet (Wichita State); and Andrew Wiggins (Kansas).

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