For the better part of four years the Iowa basketball team has been trying under head coach Fran McCaffery to regain the national notoriety that the program once held.
While it has certainly been an arduous process, the journey is nearly complete. If the Hawkeyes can go on the road and get a win against 3rd ranked Ohio State they will go from merely being acknowledged in the college basketball world to widely respected as a team to be reckoned with going forward.
The no. 20 ranked Hawkeyes are ecstatic that their team has climbed its way up the rankings and into the minds of those who cover the game. However, they are not satisfied.
Iowa was considered in the preseason as a contender to fill one of the top 4-5 positions in the Big Ten standings. An opportunity exists today that can either verify that position, or raise the bar even higher.
As crazy as it may sound, today’s match-up with the Buckeyes will mark Iowa’s first national appearance on CBS since 2006. That alone should provide people with an idea of hard the Hawkeye program has worked reestablish itself, as well as the potential magnitude of this Big Ten contest.
Many people in Big Ten circles realize that Iowa is a threat to beat any team on any given night, but to do so on the road against a top 5 opponent would legitimize them as a true contender and team to be reckoned with come March.
Prior to last Sunday’s road contest at no. 4 Wisconsin I made the case that the Hawkeyes would come away victorious, and for about 30 minutes my prediction looked pretty darn good. Those who watched the game know what happened next; a Wisconsin run, some questionable calls, two Fran McCaffery technicals, and the home team hanging on for the win. Even with its numerous self-inflicted wounds Iowa still could have, and probably should have won the game in my estimation.
Well a similar situation awaits the Hawkeyes today and it most definitely will not be easy. A top 5 Ohio State squad is coming off of its first loss of the season at Michigan State, and the Buckeyes will be looking to get back on track at home in Value City Arena.
Both teams enter with average win margins in the neighborhood of 20ppg, although they achieve it with differing styles. Ohio State is one of the premier defensive teams in the nation while the Hawkeyes are near the top in scoring. It will be a battle of wills in Columbus, and the team that can best utilize its strengths has a great chance of coming out on top.
Today will also mark the return of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. Fresh off serving a one game suspension stemming from his ejection at Wisconsin, the head man for the Hawkeyes will be crucial in managing the emotions and execution of his team in a hostile environment.
If Iowa is going to come away with a win it’s going to take a unified effort from both the coaching staff and team leaders like Devyn Marble and Aaron White.
White, a Strongsville, Ohio native, will be looking to have a big game back in his home state in front of over 40 relatives.
For any of his family members not in attendance, they would be wise to recognize the opportunity the Hawkeyes have in front of them along with all other Iowa fans. A nationally televised game on CBS provides the perfect stage for a statement win that just might reverberate over the course of the rest of this season.