So, Iowa’s men’s basketball team is making yet another trip to Assembly Required Hall next week.
The Hawkeyes and Hoosiers agreed on a Feb. 27 makeup date for their previously scheduled game of Tuesday that was postponed because of a metal beam that fell from Assembly Hall’s ceiling. There wasn’t an option on the calendar that was a comfy fit for either team. So, this date apparently is the lesser of all evils and has King ESPN’s blessing.
On paper, the date seems to make it a harsh stretch for the Hawkeyes. They play at Minnesota next Tuesday, at Indiana next Thursday, then at home against Purdue the following Sunday afternoon.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery has often used the word “professional” in describing how his players take care of business. They’ll need to act like pros next week, because that’s an NBA schedule, three games in three cities in six days.
Actually, NBA teams would yawn at that. So would touring rock bands, stand-up comedians and long-haul truck-drivers, and
But it’s definitely not “Advantage, Indiana.” The Hoosiers are at Wisconsin next Tuesday, so they won’t be any fresher than Iowa. And if they don’t beat Northwestern in Evanston this Saturday, they’ll probably bring a 5-game losing streak into their game against the Hawkeyes.
You could look at this two ways. One, the three games/six days thing makes the Hawkeyes’ bid to challenge for the Big Ten title all the harder. Which is kind of hard to argue against.
Or, you could say next week’s jam-packed schedule could be a great opportunity for the Hawkeyes to get in a good groove. First, of course, is the little detail of Iowa hosting Wisconsin Saturday. With a win, Iowa would be 9-4 in the league with wind under its wings as it flies to Minnesota. Win that, too, and the Hawkeyes will soar as they veer east to play an Indiana club that could be plenty weary itself.
Win that as well, and you’re 11-4 coming home to play a so-so Purdue team in front of the most-appreciative basketball fans Carver-Hawkeye Arena will have seen in this millennium. Those Iowa fans could one day look back on the Indiana postponement and crowded week that followed as a defining time, a challenge embraced and overcome instead of an excuse for failure.
The people who probably care least of all about the hardship are the players. Players just want to play, and they’re easily equipped to play three times in six days (and four times in nine days) in three towns.
It’s not as if college basketball players haven’t played a lot of games in a compressed time many times in their lives, especially on the AAU circuit. In conference tourneys, the teams in the title game go three straight days, sometimes even four. Connecticut won five straight days in the 2011 Big East tourney.
Granted, there’s a lot of bouncing around next week, on and off planes, in and out of hotels. But the planes are chartered and the hotels are nice. It’s not quite as taxing as repairing power lines in a blizzard.
If Iowa loses at Indiana next Thursday, it won’t be because of fatigue. But first there’s this thing in front of them this morning known as Wisconsin, a good team that’s on a roll.
If you beat the Badgers to get to 9-4 in the Big Ten, next week’s barnstorming challenge gets pretty meaningful. And exciting.