Rumors of the demise of the Iowa menís basketball team have been greatly exaggerated.
Although, the Hawkeyes better beat Purdue Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, or this Big Ten regular-season will be regarded as a total bust.
If you go from No. 10 in the nation on Jan. 20 to 8-8 in your conference on March 2 (with a trip to Michigan State next), youíve made this season feel as dim as this winter.
Youíll want to see some evidence the Hawkeyes have rediscovered the concept of defense before you buy into anything resembling optimism, but it could help that Purdue hasnít been a road warrior. It has dropped its last five road games, and got pushed around by double-digits in its last three, the last a 76-57 drubbing at Nebraska a week ago.
But beyond looking at the lack of success of Iowa's next opponent, people may need a reminder that college basketball seasons are long treks. They almost inevitably have a period in which your teamís focus fades and it catches foes when theyíre as sharp as the winter wind.
Iowa went to Minnesota and Indiana last week. Defensively, the Hawkeyes appeared slow or unsound or both. Maybe they were weary. Maybe they are college kids who hit some sort of wall. Maybe they played against teams that are pretty good at home when they get a little confidence.
Minnesota has beaten Ohio State and Wisconsin in Williams Arena. Indiana has beaten Wisconsin and Michigan in Assembly Hall.
OK, nobody wants to hear that right now. Not when an Iowa team that was drawing raves from so many circles outside the stateís borders is now being called a falling star.
But you could consider a couple of things. One, there are precious few great teams in the nation. There may not be any. The Big Ten is a collection of teams that are mostly very talented, but there isnít one of them that isnít flawed in some way.
Also, college basketball history is stuffed with teams that went flat for a period during the season before collecting themselves in the postseason and playing as well as they played all year, even better.
Here are four pretty good examples from a year ago:
Syracuse was 22-4 last year before losing four of its final five Big East games, the last one a 61-39 bit of ugliness at Georgetown. The Orange finished the season at the Final Four.
Wichita State had a 3-game losing streak in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference season last year, and later closed the Valley season with a pair of losses. The Shockers brushed off that residue and proceeded to the Final Four.
Michigan was a disappointing tied-for-fourth in the Big Ten with a pair of 2013 first-round NBA draftees-to-be in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. The Wolverines lost three times in a four-game stretch, went just 5-5 over their final 10 league games, and fell to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan then advanced to the national-championship game.
Louisville lost three consecutive games midway through the Big East season. That was, ahem, national-champion Louisville.
That isnít to suggest Iowa has any such destination as its destiny. But just like the Hawkeyes were never quite as powerful as many would have had you believe not long ago ó particularly after their 85-67 dismantling of Michigan on Feb. 8 ó they havenít suddenly become feeble.Perceptions change, then change again in college basketball seasons. Iowaís probably isnít done changing.