1. Limiting turnovers. Defensive woes fell under the microscope in back-to-back road losses to Minnesota and Indiana, but Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was more upset with the team's inability to take care of the basketball.
At Indiana, the No. 25-ranked Hawkeyes (20-9, 9-8 Big Ten) had 18 turnovers -- including 11 steals -- that led to 18 Hoosiers points. Iowa had 13 turnovers leading to 15 points at Minnesota. Iowa lost both games by single digits.
"We're right in the game against two really good teams on the road," McCaffery said. "But it's tough to overcome that many turnovers."
Iowa worked extensively on limiting turnovers before its game Sunday against Purdue, and it showed. Iowa gave up only five total turnovers, including just one steal, that led to four Purdue points in an 83-76 win.
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell, the Big Ten's leader in assist-to-turnover leader at 3.0, had just one turnover and three assists. Fellow guard Devyn Marble had no turnovers and five assists.
Gesell had five turnovers in a 93-86 loss at Indiana last Thursday.
"It was a big emphasis," Iowa point guard Mike Gesell said. "The last two games I felt like we had way too many turnovers. That isn’t like us. All year we haven’t been a turnover team. We’re back to our usual selves."
Conversely, the Hawkeyes forced 16 turnovers that led to 18 points. The Hawkeyes clamped down on Boilermakers guard Ronnie Johnson, who had seven turnovers to go with a 0-for-6 shooting performance.
Iowa's defense held firm when Purdue took a 64-60 lead with 11:17 left in the game. The Boilermakers failed to score on their next eight trips, lasting more than six minutes, and committing five turnovers. The Hawkeyes gained possession on a pair of steals, forced a traveling call and a shot clock violation.
“We turned the ball over way too much,” Purdue Coach Matt Painter said. “A couple of them were just not catching the basketball. The other ones were just poor decisions. We have to do a better job when we get key opportunities and take care of the ball.”
"We got a lot out of our three-quarter court press today," McCaffery said. "The zone was good. The change was good."
2. Too much postseason talk. After months of postseason speculation and NCAA tournament discussions, McCaffery finally snapped after he was asked about how the win affected his NCAA tournament hopes.
"I think that question is asked way too many times," McCaffery said. "We get that question in December now. We get it in November. I don't care right now.
"I want to figure, How can we beat Michigan State? How can we keep getting our team better? When that time comes, we'll deal with that.
"It drives me crazy. You watch ESPN. That's all they talk about. Who is going to make a run? Who is the No. 1 seed? Why are we talking about the No. 1 seed in February? Somebody is going to be the No. 1 seed. You're the No. 2 seed, who cares. Get in. Go try to win."
McCaffery has a point. During football season, some fans are more concerned with bowl scenarios in September than with conference rivalry games. Basketball is even worse. Many people don't even notice college basketball until March. Then it's all about brackets and huddling around television sets during the first weekend of action (which by the way is awesome).
But during the season, coaches are more concerned about what's directly in front of them rather than the big picture. It's about each practice, each possession and the next game. They live in the moment, whereas many of us are more interested in the future. A president-elect is concerned with leading the country, while much of the focus centers on who will oppose him/her in the next election cycle.
The problem with looking toward the future is that you can't appreciate the present. McCaffery understands that, which is why he snapped Sunday.
3. Regional emphasis. Last Friday, the Big Ten announced each school's 2014-15 opponents. The league plans to incorporate a true rotation where each school becomes a double-play opponent five seasons over a 13-year period. But the first year has a strict regional emphasis while incorporating newbies Rutgers and Maryland, which is a good thing.
Big Ten basketball has plenty of good rivalries but none (except for maybe Purdue-Indiana and Michigan-Michigan State) matches the intensity of a football rivalry. Unlike football where schools will go years without playing one another, every basketball team will play all league schools at least once annually. But schools care a little more about playing their neighbors and the league agreed to start the rotation with border scrums.
It's possible league administrators, who make the final decision, will alter the scheduling philosophy to allow for permanent rivals or regional preference. This gives the schools a chance to adjust to the 14-team league.
Here are the double-play games:
Illinois -- Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue
Indiana -- Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers
Iowa -- Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Maryland -- Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers
Michigan -- Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers
Michigan State -- Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern
Minnesota -- Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Nebraska -- Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Northwestern -- Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin
Ohio State -- Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue
Penn State -- Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin
Purdue -- Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State, Rutgers
Rutgers -- Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue
Wisconsin -- Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State
B1G TIEBREAKER -- Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State are battling for the first-round bye for next week's Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes have the advantage on Nebraska based on a win in the teams' only meeting. Ohio State and Iowa split their two games, but the next tiebreaker is based on how you did against other league teams starting at the top. Iowa was 1-1 against Michigan, while the Buckeyes lost their only game to the Wolverines.
2-POINT CONVERSION -- Four Big Ten teams remain in each of the polls, but their positions are tenuous. Wisconsin led the way in both, ranking ninth by the Associated Press and 11th by the coaches. Michigan was 12th in both polls, and Michigan State was ranked 22nd by both. Iowa was 24th by AP and 25th by the coaches.
DEFENSIVE DROP -- Before its game against Wisconsin on Feb. 22, Iowa ranked third in Big Ten field-goal defense at 41.3 percent. After its last four games, the Hawkeyes have plummeted to 11th at 44.0 percent. In each of the last four games Iowa's opponents shot better than 47.6 percent from the field. Indiana shot 50.8 percent and scored 93 points. Minnesota shot 61.2 percent and scored 95 points.