Leading up to Sunday's tilt with Villanova, I was carefully optimistic about Iowa's chances of winning. There was a part of me that believed that Iowa's senior's -- the crew that changed the outlook of this program forever -- got a much needed shot of adrenaline when Adam Woodbury shove-tipped that ball through the net in overtime against Temple. There was a part of me that believed that this crew could be/was a sleeping giant, ready to push Jay Wright out of the tournament coaching box and straight into the CBS Studio as Fran McCaffery prepared for Miami in the Sweet 16. There was a part of me that believed that Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok were about to unleash the fury, Tom Green style.
There was a part of me that believed that Iowa matched up well against Villanova.
It just goes to show that I (and the rest of America) know as much as Jon Snow.
By now, we all have seen what actually happened in the 87-68 beatdown. Iowa was outmatched. Out hustled. Out played. Out worked.
So when BTPowerhouse's ever faithful leader Thomas Beindit asked if anyone would like to write on the topic of "If Iowa should have done more", I leaped. It wasn't because I had an immediate answer, it's because I was still trying to hash out in my mind if Iowa should have done more or if they even could have done more.
But let's start off with the initial question at hand. Should Iowa have done more against Villanova? Yes, probably.
The first and only thing that comes to mind is how Iowa came out to warm up. I traveled up to Brooklyn to see this game live and this was the first time this season that I had the opportunity to watch Iowa in person... and I hated almost every minute of it.
When we walked into the arena, I was fairly excited to get to my seat to watch them get ready for the game. That excitement only lasted a few minutes. The Hawkeyes took the floor first and everything was gravy. They were chucking up some shots, a lot of them were falling through the net and I started to believe that they could shoot their way into the Sweet-16.
Until Villanova came out of the tunnel and you could both see and feel their intensity.
While Iowa continued to just shoot around with a relative ease of mind , Villanova looked like the well oiled machine they turned out to be. The Hawkeyes looked like a bunch of dudes who showed up eight minutes before the start of a rec league game; launching up some three's and long two's.
And Nova looked like an NCAA Champion.
The Wildcats weren't just "shooting" around before the game, they were running drills. They were drive and kicking to different spots in the half court. They were preparing for traps and double teams and when they got out of them, the ball was flying around the arch -- one, two, three, four passes -- to wide open players who filled in perfectly in the weakside holes.
Obviously, hindsight is 20-20, but when the Hawkeyes are doing layup lines while their opponent is running a 30-minute practice before the game, there's something to be said about their preparation and seriousness. And that says nothing about their body language. Going through the motions is putting it softly. While Villanova was running themselves through the gauntlet, they were also dancing and practicing their dabs, daps and individual handshakes to the awesome Barclay Center pre-game soundtrack -- looking like the LeBron-era Heat--Iowa was doing high school layup lines with minimal conversation or interaction.
The only person I saw show a little bit of excitement was Christian Williams. CHRISTIAN WILLIAMS!
Maybe it was just from my point of view (I was seated slightly to the right behind Villanova's first half basket), but I would bet a hefty chunk of change that I wasn't the only one to notice the distinct differences taking place before the game. And when I start to question if there were things that took place in the locker room before the team came out, or if these guys even liked each other at all, that's a giant problem.
I hate to be the body language doctor, but Villanova won that game before it even started. Everything they worked on pregame prepped them for what happened during the game. They broke the press. They broke the zone. They broke the traps. They shot the ball with confidence.
They were 100% ready to keep their journey going, and nothing was going to stand in their way.
I can't say that about the Hawkeyes.
As far as the actual game goes, I don't know what more they could/should have done. McCaffery tried everything.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes failed in stopping Villanova's fantastic passing and outside shooting. Offensively, Iowa couldn't work their way into the lane. They couldn't create drive and kick opportunities. Jay Wright sent Kris "Big Smooth" Jenkins and Josh Hart right at Jarrod Uthoff and he shriveled up. Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons seemingly forgot how to dribble for a majority of the first half and Peter Jok was ice cold. As a team, they turned the ball over way too much and picked up their dribble in horrible locations when they got slammed by a hedge so often I wanted to get up and pace the stairs like a lunatic.
I was infuriated with the performance (Nicholas Baer was the lone bright spot that I tried hanging my hat on), until I finally realized that Iowa just got pinned up against a superior defensive team who also had one of their best offensive outputs of the season. That Iowa simply got slammed by an eye opening championship performance by one of the best five teams in the country.
And despite my early beliefs, Iowa was never the type of team that could play with that Philadelphia/Big East style of defense. They were too much of a finesse team. And even if the seniors came out and matched the swagger Villanova did, the Wildcats were never going to lose that game.
So could/should Iowa have done more. Maybe a few things (like burn a timeout during one of the three Villanova runs in the first half?), but at the end of the day, Iowa most resembled the team that was on display the last month and a half than the one they were earlier in the season.
And that team was never going to contend for anything beyond their second round dismissal.