Wisconsin-Milwaukee head coach Bruce Pearl, left, greets Illinois coach Bruce Weber before their Chicago Regional semifinal game of the NCAA tournament Thursday, March 24, 2005, at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
We often write about a team’s home advantage in sports. Those include cold-weather or warm-weather environments in football. The fact home baseball teams get to bat last. But make no mistake: home court in college basketball poses the greatest advantage in sports.
I’d love to dig up statistics that back up my previous statement, but all you have to do is see an arena full of fans with students jumping up and down within feet of an opposing bench to at least give my statement some sway.
But that’s not what this blog is about today. It’s about those basketball schools that Iowa plays annually. There are great rivalries in Big Ten college basketball — Indiana-Purdue immediately comes to mind — but this blog is more about the schools that you don’t like rather than the ones you admire in sportsmanship fashion.
Below are 12 schools that Iowa plays each year. There are reasons to loathe each of them. Read the background and select as the basketball program you dislike the most.
Your choices are:
Minnesota — The Gophers have beaten Iowa six straight and, in a few cases, horrific fashion. In 2009, Minnesota forced Iowa into 24 turnovers in one game and beat the Hawkeyes by 35 in the other, Iowa’s worst beating in the series in 108 years.
Wisconsin — The Badgers have ripped Iowa nine straight in Madison, but they do that to everybody. The real issues between the schools lies with recruiting. Wisconsin has picked up a pair of Cedar Rapids-area preps in the last handful of years that Iowa wanted. Plus, there’s former Iowa signee Ben Brust, who fought the Big Ten to rescind his Iowa offer in favor of a Wisconsin scholarship. A little bad blood there.
Nebraska — The schools have ramped up recruiting efforts in the borderland between the states along the Missouri River. They competed for the same guard (Anthony Hubbard), who picked Iowa. There’s a likelihood the teams will fight around Sioux City for players in the years to come. More jabs are thrown in recruiting than on the floor, where the schools hadn’t met since 1976.
Northwestern— It’s lower-profile, but the Wildcats have consistently bugged the Hawkeyes as much in basketball as football. Northwestern has beaten Iowa six of the last seven meetings in Evanston. Some were upsets, like in 2006. Others were massacres, like 2010. Either way, it’s three straight and four of five overall for the Wildcats in the series.
Illinois— You could write a series of blogs about the Iowa-Illinois series. Some Illinois fans point to the mid-1950s when Iowa recruited several key players from Illinois and went to a pair of Final Fours. There’s the little incident with former Iowa assistant Bruce Pearl taping a conversation alleging Illinois’ Deon Thomas was getting paid by Illinois assistant Jimmy Collins. There’s Andy Kaufmann’s epic shot in 1993. Iowa has lost 21 of 22 at Assembly Hall, and the Illini lost 21 of 23 in Iowa City from 1965-1990.
Purdue — There’s a healthy respect for the programs, which met for third place in the 1980 NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes dropped that game. Iowa also lost a series record eight straight before knocking off the No. 6 Boilermakers last March. The loss knocked Purdue from a potential No. 1 seed, and the Boilermakers couldn’t pull it together in an NCAA Tournament fade.
Indiana — Former coaches Bob Knight and Lute Olson (and later Tom Davis) had their tussles in this hard-fought series. But perhaps the most polarizing figure in this rivalry is Steve Alford, a former Indiana All-American who coached Iowa for eight seasons. He was disliked by many Iowa fans at the end of his tenure, but he remains a legend in Hoosierworld.
Ohio State — Iowa was the better team historically until recent years. The Buckeyes have won a series-best six straight against the Hawkeyes and eight of nine overall since Iowa beat Ohio State for the Big Ten Tournament title in 2006. Now Iowa leads the all-time series 75-74.
Penn State — Fifteen years ago you might have given this a second thought. Two physical games in 1995 capped by a crushing screen set by Penn State’s John Amaechi on Iowa’s Kenyon Murray sent this series into mayhem. It’s tapered off ever since, although Iowa’s double-overtime win in 2009 prevented a talented Nittany Lion squad from reaching the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan — No program enjoys a wider disparity between wins and losses against Iowa than Michigan. The Wolverines have won 89 to Iowa’s 57 in the series but that doesn’t include Michigan’s wave of forfeits in the 1990s. In recent years Michigan has won nine of 10. The teams have played three consecutive overtime games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Michigan State — Iowa has lost 16 straight in East Lansing and the Hawkeyes’ last win there came shortly after Chris Street’s death in 1993. Last year Michigan State threw the disrespect card against Iowa after the Hawkeyes bashed the Spartans by 20 in Iowa City. Michigan State then won at Breslin Center and in the Big Ten Tournament to end Iowa’s season.
Iowa State — The basketball series is much more even historically than its football counterpart, but it’s also highly competitive. The schools have split their last 22 games and usually hold serve on their own court — Iowa has lost four straight at Hilton Coliseum; ISU ended a three-game losing skid at Iowa City with a three-point win.