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Iowa Basketball: Despite Tough Road Loss, Opportunity Still Awaits Tonight in East Lansing

Another road opportunity awaits for the young Hawkeyes tonight in East Lansing.

I could sit here and talk about Wednesday night until I'm blue in the face. But what good does that do?

The Hawkeyes lost a double overtime battle to a good Gopher team that was the beneficiary of some questionable late game calls by the officials. It happens. It just so happens that it happened to Iowa this particular time out (see what I did there).

Instead, we march on to tonight's game in East Lansing, which is a place the Hawkeyes have won at once in the last 27 seasons. The Spartans have beaten Iowa in 18 of the last 19 games at the Breslin Center, but Iowa's only win came last season in a rout. So, that is something they can build on.

Of the core guys that played in that game last year only Peter Jok and Dom Uhl scored in double figures. Jok paced Iowa with 23 points, while Uhl had 10 off the bench.

For the Spartans, it's more of the same. They return just one starter from that game in Lourawls Nairn Jr, but Eron Harris and Matt McQuaid both played good minutes off the bench for Tom Izzo. In the first and only game (depending on Big Ten Tournament pairings) between these teams this season we will see a lot of new, fresh faces. 

The Hawkeyes, who have been searching for some signature road wins to add to their tournament resume, thought they had one over Minnesota on Wednesday. The Gophers are an RPI top 30 team and a win at "The Barn" would've done wonders for Iowa's resume. Instead, we saw a loss. And we probably saw Iowa's tournament chances get flushed down the toilet as well.

Tonight, however, Iowa has another chance to beat an RPI top 50 team. The Spartans currently sit at 50th in the RPI rankings, while Iowa sits down at 96th. 

Would it bolster the numbers as much as the win over Minnesota would have? Probably not - actually, definitely not. But beating RPI top 50 teams on the road is always something that looks good when March rolls around. Whether you're vying for the NCAA Tournament or looking at a good seed in the NIT, wins like this help a lot. 

It also helps a young team learn that they can win on the road, which I think is the biggest thing at this point.

Wednesday night probably felt like a knock out punch for these kids as they had the game pretty much in hand, only to have to snatched away from them with under 30 seconds left in regulation by three people not even playing in the game. 

If they can go to the Breslin Center and knock off the Spartans, it'll definitely help heal those wounds from Wednesday night.

As far as the NCAA tournament goes, Iowa is definitely on the outside looking in and are a team that is running out of chances to bolster their resume. 

They have two good RPI top 50 wins against Iowa State and Purdue, but both came at home. They don't really have many bad losses, outside of the loss to Omaha, who is outside the top 150 in terms of RPI. 

They currently sit at 14-11, but I think it takes a win tonight, winning all three remaining home games, a road win over Wisconsin or Maryland, and making it to at least Saturday in the Big Ten tournament for the Hawkeyes to have a shot at the Big Dance and even then it is up in the air.

Right now, no is probably my answer to the question "Will the Hawkeyes be dancing come the middle of March?" but that is not to say they don't still have chances in a conference that is one, down, and two extremely balanced. The Hawkeyes have the tools to beat anyone in this conference, it's only a matter of putting it all together in consecutive games. 

They've played four really strong games in a row and a fifth is necessary tonight.

The Hawkeyes have no room for error as we approach the middle of February. 

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