If the Iowa basketball team hasn’t realized it yet, failure to zero in on any game in conference play more often than not leads to a loss.
On Tuesday night the Hawkeyes (17-6, 6-4 Big Ten) dropped their second consecutive Big Ten home game 76-69 to Ohio State. Now, an Iowa team that barely a week ago was considered a real threat to make a run at the regular season title has instead been regressing back towards a pack of teams fighting to stay above .500.
Head coach Fran McCaffery is now tasked with regrouping his players, and pushing through an unrelenting final eight game conference stretch.
When McCaffery addressed his team following the loss to the Buckeyes, he hopefully made it clear that success simply does not come to the faint of heart. For the Hawkeyes to continue their progression towards being an upper echelon contender there can be no nights off. Not in the film room, not on the practice court, and not when the bright lights come on at game time.
To put it simply, Iowa looked lethargic and out-of-sync against an opponent that thrives upon mental and physical breakdowns. It almost seemed as though the Hawkeyes expected to merely show up and win against an Ohio State team they had beaten in Columbus almost a month earlier.
That type of mindset leads to disappointing performances against even the most over-matched of opponents. However, a similar approach against a top 25 caliber team like the Buckeyes will get you beat darn near every time.
Iowa is a very good basketball team, and unquestionably better in my opinion than Ohio State. Unfortunately, being “very good” does not allow for a wide enough margin of error to survive an unenergetic effort against quality opposition. I firmly believe that the Hawkeyes can play with the blueblood programs of the college basketball world this season, but unlike these teams, they cannot overcome sloppy play with an unmatched level of talent.
The success of the Hawkeyes is predicated on cohesive team play. They often times don’t need an other-worldly performance from one individual because of their ability to overwhelm opponents with numerous players on a 10-deep roster.
Neither of Iowa’s top two players in Devyn Marble and Aaron White had strong games against Ohio State. Marble in particular had his worst outing of Big Ten play, and never really got on track in time to try and salvage a win for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa fumbled around for 40 minutes against a team with enough talent to steal the game if given the opportunity to do so, and it ultimately suffered the consequences. As redundant as it may sound, the Big Ten is littered with these types of games, and the Hawkeyes would be wise to take that fact to heart.
This team has a chance to do big things moving forward in 2014, but it will take a consistently excellent mindset in order to accomplish them.
Down the road this latest loss might actually prove to be beneficial for the Hawkeyes. In the mean time it best serves as motivation to get back on track this Saturday at home against the 10th ranked Michigan Wolverines.