IOWA CITY, Iowa - Aaron White has a message for everybody invested in Iowa basketball: There's no place for Debbie Downers.
"The thing is, I don't want to overreact and have this negative cloud," the senior captain said.
The gloomy outlook exists after the Hawkeyes were upset twice last week. The setbacks came on the heels of a pair of impressive wins.
"There's no need to get super negative just like there wasn't a reason to get super positive after a great week," White continued. "I'm just trying to keep that even keel and not trying to react one way or the other. It's kind of big not only for the team but for the program as a whole - fan base, media, coaches, players, everyone. We had a great week and then we had a bad week. Sometimes that's just how basketball is."
Fair enough. White's right. There's plenty to play for. Iowa just needs to iron out lingering inconsistencies still present with only six of 31 regular-season games remaining.
The Hawkeyes control how they will be viewed externally. It's NCAA Tournament or bust. The homestretch tips off Thursday night against lowly Rutgers (7 p.m. CT, ESPNU) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa (15-10 overall, 6-6 Big Ten) sits somewhere on the Big Dance bubble following last week's disaster. The Hawkeyes were upset by Minnesota at home Thursday before wayward Northwestern handed them their worst lost of the season on Sunday in Evanston. It was the Wildcats first win in this calendar year as they ended a 10-game skid.
While White, his mates and the coaches benefit from keeping a positive outlook, that's not always easy for fans. It's a skittish group after witnessing only three winning conference seasons in the last 15 years.
Adding to the misery was last year's late-season collapse that saw the Hawkeyes lose seven of their final eight games after rising to a Top 10 ranking in January. It dampened the program's first NCAA Tournament bid in eight years.
Junior forward Jarrod Uthoff said the Hawkeyes need to remember what happened and use it as motivation to not let it occur again.
"You just have to battle through the tough times," he said. "You can't let two losses turn into losing seven out of eight."
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this Iowa campaign is the up-and-down ride it's followed. The Hawkeyes are a week removed from blasting Michigan in Ann Arbor and throttling a ranked Maryland team.
"That's how I'm going to move forward and see our team in that sense rather than the team that had a couple of slip ups and didn't play great the last week," White said. "I would rather look at the positive note and say we're capable of doing X, Y and Z . Let's do X, Y and Z Thursday night and Sunday (at Nebraska)."
A Rutgers' win Thursday would deliver a critical blow to the Hawkeyes' NCAA chances. The last-place Scarlet Knights drag a nine-game losing streak into Iowa City. It would replace Northwestern as Iowa's worst loss of 2014-15 and represent a major black eye on its postseason resume.
The Hawkeyes finish up with five of their final six regular-season games coming against schools (Rutgers, at Nebraska, Illinois, at Penn State, Northwestern) with at least as many league losses as they have. The lone exception is a contest at Indiana, which has one just fewer defeat than them.
While it leaves Iowa without many chances to gain triumphs to impress the NCAA Selection Committee, it allows for it to stack wins. The Hawkeyes already own signature victories (at North Carolina, a two-game sweep of Ohio State) that could carry them into the Big Dance provided they avoid more bad losses, which they hadn't had before Northwestern.
If Iowa takes care of business and captures four or five of their final six games, it also would send it into the postseason with some momentum. Call it a win-win situation.
"The confidence it gives you heading into the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAAs is good," White said. "You don't want to fall your way into the NCAAs or the Big Ten Tournament. You want to have a little bit of confidence in your game and your team.
"Also, the committee looks at that when it comes that time. I don't know if it's last five (games) or last 10. They kind of look at that to see whether you're trending up or down. It's important."
It also would remove the negative cloud hanging over Hawkeye basketball following last week's bumps and 11 of the last 15 years ending in NCAA absences.