A snowy day in the greatest college town in America failed to cool off one of the hottest teams in college basketball. The Iowa Hawkeyes (17-5, 6-5 conference) stifled the Big Ten’s top team, Michigan (20-2, 9-2 conference), 74-59. The Hawkeyes, a mid-tier team in the Big Ten, finally got over the hump and claimed the signature win they had been after all year. It was a moment of great rejoicing for the Hawkeye faithful, who stormed the court of Carver-Hawkeye Arena as the buzzer sounded. Michigan entered the game with a #5 ranking in the AP Poll and had only one prior loss. This win for the Hawkeyes however, has pundits all across the country asking, “Are the Hawkeyes for real?” As nothing short of an expert on Hawkeye sports and sports in general for that matter, I am here to tell you - Yes. The Hawkeyes are a legitimate threat in the Big Ten, as well as the NCAA Tournament come March, and here’s why:
It would be impossible to talk about the vastly improved Hawkeyes without first talking about defense. Coming off an abysmal 14-19 season in 2017-2018 where the Hawkeyes gave up an average of 79 points per game, the defense was prioritized over the off-season by head coach Fran McCaffery. So far this season, Iowa’s opponents are averaging 73 points per game. In the grind of the Big Ten season, where games are often decided by slim margins, these 6 points can, and have, made all the difference. As the old saying goes… “defense wins championships.” Look for the Hawkeye’s defense to take them to the Final Four in April.
The Hawkeyes offense has been nothing short of explosive this season. Iowa is averaging 82 points per game, behind only power-house Michigan State in the conference. From beyond the arc, the Hawkeyes are shooting 37 percent, similar to INFOWARS 3 point percentage in the 2018 intramural season. From the stripe, Iowa is shooting a Big Ten leading 75 percent. The Hawkeyes also feature one of the best front courts in the conference, and maybe even the country. Luka Garza and Tyler Cook are forces to be reckoned with in the paint, averaging 16 and 15 points per game. In the front court, sharp shooter Jordan Bohannon is shooting 38 percent from 3 and true-freshman Joe Wieskamp is exceeding expectations by averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds per game. In March, look for hot shooting to help the Hawkeyes win the natty.
Hawkeye fans are excited, and they should be. Fran McCaffery has his team in all likelihood headed to the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes are playing all-around team basketball and the country is starting to notice. Personally, it is hard to imagine the Hawkeyes not dancing in confetti as “One Shining Moment” echoes through the stadium at the end of this season. So lookout Big Ten, lookout Duke, lookout Tennessee (wait what? Tennessee is good?), there’s a train departing from Iowa City this March, and its destination? The Natty.