Iowa's season felt a lot like tonight's game. At times, Iowa moves the ball with grace and perfect execution. Adam Woodbury was having a career game, Peter Jok was knocking down shots, and Iowa proved why it was ranked as high as it was early in the season. But as the game went on, the Hawkeyes couldn't maintain their offense prowess. Shots didn't fall, Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White weren't producing, and eventually too many Tennessee baskets ended their season.
When Iowa went up 16-4, they seemed to be in cruise control to run through the rest of the first half. Their trapping was perfect, and the Tennessee offense seemed flustered by the Hawkeyes' trap. But Melsahn Basabe picked up his third foul, and Zach McCabe picked up his second shortly thereafter. Fran McCaffrey's rotation was completely out of wack because of that, and Tennessee went on a 10-2 run to end the half to cut the Iowa lead to 3.
The start of the second half saw the Hawkeyes begin to regain some of their offensive form, and Woodbury was featured early as he scored two baskets. Peter Jok hit another 3 to extend the lead to 4, but Iowa's offense down the stretch was horrific and Marble bailed them out on a shot with 17 seconds to go. Iowa should have had the momentum going into the overtime period, but were outscored 14-1 en route to an overtime shellacking by Tennessee, and a final score of 78-65.
Fran McCaffrey has a lot to be proud of with this Hawkeye team, as this is their first NCAA tournament since 2006. They managed to build a great 11 man rotation, but McCaffrey could not seem to find his best 8 or 9 man rotation down the stretch. While losing in the B1G tournament is not usually detrimental, losing to Northwestern in the first round is never great momentum heading into the NCAA tournament, and this loss ultimately forced the Hawkeyes down to the 11-seed and ultimately to the First Four loss.
While it is a crushing blow to a disappointing season, the future is very bright in Iowa City. While they do lose Marble, Basabe and McCabe, they return 8 rotation players and 3 starters who all have a ton of experience. I expect Iowa to compete for a top-4 spot in the Big Ten, and for Fran McCaffrey to have this team much better prepared for the slog of the Big Ten down the stretch.