Miller: Iowa's Bubble is Burst

HN.com Founder Jon Miller provides his thoughts and opinions on Iowa's loss to Minnesota as well as its implications for the rest of the season...and perhaps the Steve Alford era.

I thought about writing a different column tonight, but in the heat of the battle, and with at least five four more games remaining in this season, I resisted the temptation of emotion to write that column.

There is a part of me that is wondering why I should wait to write it, because for all intents and purposes, the Steve Alford era was dealt a major blow on Wednesday night in Williams Arena, and there were no Illini fans in the seats to shoulder the blame. The Hawks let a second half lead slip away and could not come all the way back from a double-digit deficit.

Stop me when this sounds familiar…

Iowa led 36-31 with 14:14 to go in the second half, but (OK, I didn't mean to stop me that quickly) Minnesota went on a 21-3 run to put the Hawks down 52-39 with 6:35 to go.

That was pretty much the ballgame.

On the night, Iowa had nine offensive rebounds and Minnesota center Jeff Hagen had 11. Late in the game, Minnesota had 18 second-chance points to Iowa's squat.

It seems that game to game, there is a new glaring statistical advantage that an Iowa opponent has over the Hawks. It seems year to year that that advantage is turnover margin.

It's incredibly frustrating.

The entire Alford era has been incredibly frustrating.

I know for a fact that this year's players are very, very, very frustrated, though you will not hear them say such things on the record.

If you watched Wednesday night's game, you also saw a kinder, gentler Steve Alford on the Hawkeye sideline.

I don't know why that is; perhaps he finally decided that screaming at his players when they are still in contention to win close games late in the action is not a good idea, so he tried taking a page out of Tom Davis' book.

Or perhaps he just doesn't have any more buttons to push.

No matter the reason, Alford sure looked incredibly calm for a coach whose figurative head is on the chopping block. But, then again, he has told us in the past that he is financially secure and set for life.

His players finally showed some signs of the pressure getting to them on Wednesday, in spite of their attempt to come back at the end. Iowa committed 16 turnovers on Wednesday; that is not the high water mark for the season, but things sure appeared to be as sloppy as they have been all season. But then again, 16 turnovers compared to 23 made field goals is a pretty salty percentage.

Oh by the way; Iowa's NCAA tournament bubble just went ‘POP'. Iowa is guaranteed to finish the regular season with a losing record in Big Ten play for the fifth time in the six years of the Alford era.

Let me repeat that: Iowa is guaranteed a losing record this year in Big Ten play, the fifth time that has happened in the six years of the Alford era.

Iowa also suffered yet another citizenship black eye this year with Pierre Pierce.

Record, attendance and citizenship were three items that Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby talked about last year when illustrating the ways in which he would evaluate the program after this season.

One bad citizen does not make Iowa a team of bad citizens, that is for sure. But it's another brick in the wall right about now.

Iowa is headed towards the worst ever attendance total in Carver Hawkeye Arena history, breaking the ‘record' that was set last year.

Should the NIT invite the Hawkeyes and should Iowa accept the invitation, the Hawks would become the first team in Big Ten history to make four straight NIT appearances.

Alford said on Monday that he did not think that Iowa would ever turn down an opportunity to play in the post season, because ‘it's valuable for your program.'

The terminally optimistic will point out that Iowa still has a shot at an NCAA bid, and they do. They will have to win four games in four days, just like they did in 2001.

That team won 23 games on the season, which is the third highest single season total in school history. That team went 5-1 over its last six games. This Iowa team could get to 23 wins if it duplicated that 5-1 record and won two of its last three regular season games. If not that, it's still not unrealistic to think that this team could win 20 games before all is said and done.

I guess even the shiniest of gold can be a chunk of pyrite.


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