Boy, that escalated quickly... I mean, that really got out of hand fast. It jumped up a notch. Or down, depending on how you look at it. It's probably why I still feel like the guy on the other end of Brick Tamland's trident almost 72 hours after that horrid and short Big Ten Tournament appearance. This team -- who on paper is the same one that swept Purdue and Michigan State earlier in the season -- looks more lost than Jack Shephard.
Too tired. Too drained.
And every player on that roster not named Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok and Adam Woodbury have been playing with that "deer in headlight" look on their faces since Valentine's Day. The free flowing, efficient offense the team had earlier in the season has been gone for so long, it might as well be considered dead. Their defensive energy -- especially along the three point line -- is defunct. The rebounding on the offensive glass has some how gotten progressively worse and worse. Nothing is working. The magic is gone.
It's quite a quagmire at the absolute wrong time of the season.
You know the stats that back these claims by now: Losers of six of their last eight games. A team that can't buy buckets no matter how much money they offer. The bench -- who was playing like an All-Star unit to start the season -- is continuously tripping over their own shoelaces, averaging a mere 9.1 points per game since February 11th. Their inability to contribute much of anything beyond sucking up fouls has directly affected the available rest time for guys like Uthoff, Jok and Woodbury. Speaking of which, four of the five Iowa starters are averaging 30 or more minutes per game in conference play.
Oh, what I would have done to get Dale Jones back and fully healthy.
Sure, things could be worse and I won't soon forget how great college basketball was before Iowa went into Assembly Hall. Or how Jarrod Uthoff launched himself into the upper echelon of Iowa's All-Timers. How Peter Jok (quickly and extremely square) shot his way into my heart. Or the stellar and consistent post play by the Big Ten's biggest heel, Adam Woodbury. Or the flashes of brilliance Sapp provided. Or how hard Mikey worked night in and night out despite having a broken jump shot that nobody respected.
Deep down I know once the tournament is over and I'm craving Big Ten hoops again that those will be things I'll remember.
But what about right now? How am I feeling about Iowa after THAT performance against the Illini?
Well after three days worth of half court shots, and exciting finishes, I am choosing to have a lighter take on this season and where Iowa can go from here. I am openly choosing (probably stupidly) to hold onto hope that Iowa fans are going through this sports pain for a reason. That the Hawkeyes are merely stuck in a sports movie from 15 years ago.
And if we are in a bad 90's sports movie, today, Selection Sunday, only means one thing: Iowa is at that low point in the story, right before EVERYTHING is on the line, where they have to figure out who they are. That integral moment where the team -- who, like in all great sports movies, have gotten way to big for their britches -- are in the middle of one of the roughest patches they've ever faced as a collective unit. Where they have no other choice but to ask themselves, What would Gordon Bombay and Charlie Conway do?
Gordon Bombay and Charlie Conway would have the team go back to their roots to relearn how to play THEIR game again. To play some street hockey... er... basketball against some of Iowa City's best street ballers. To learn a classic swagger move like Ball, Headband, Jersey that will bring an energy to the team when it's used. To learn how to shoot knuckle puck free throws that immediately raise their percentage by at least 20%.
It's outlandish, I know. But the premise is real. Iowa needs to fall in love with the simplicities of basketball again. They need to go back to the basics. They need to relearn how to shoot free throws. How to rebound. How to guard the three point line. They need to rebuild that team camaraderie.
They need to find their inner Flying-V before they tip off against Temple in Brooklyn.
Because remember, after you win the NCAA Tournament and the Hawkeyes find themselves sitting around a camp fire singing We Are the Champions while Brady Ellingson plays three strings on his guitar, nobody will remember that they lost to Iceland... I mean, to the Fighting Illini in the Big Ten Tournament.