During the Steve Alford era, Iowa is 15-27 during the month of February, the month that teams either shore up their NCAA tournament resume or do enough bad things to shoot holes in it.
Unfortunately for Iowa, the latter has been the case far more often than the former.
However, this year appears to be the year where the Iowa Basketball program is exorcizing old demons and kicking them to the curb.
In past years, Iowa might not have had the intestinal fortitude to come back and beat Penn State on the road after the Nittany Lions took the lead late in the game on back to back three-pointers. This year, the Hawks did it.
In past years, Iowa might have lost to Minnesota at home in triple overtime instead of pulling out a win on a night where it shot just 1 of 20 from three-point land. Yet this year, Iowa has packed a defense that allows it to weather such storms and they prevailed.
In past years, Iowa might have followed up last Tuesday's nationally televised win over then #11 Indiana with loss at home against ranked Ohio State, especially after it lost the lead late in the game. Yet this year's Iowa team held the Buckeyes without a field goal for the game's final 6:34 and the Hawks emerged victorious.
In each of the last four Big Ten seasons, Iowa had just one two-games or better win streak in league play; this year's team already has two such streaks, including the current two-game winning streak.
This year's team already has five wins against ranked foes and is four games away from the first ever perfect season on the home court of Carver Hawkeye Arena.
Before we start making plans to cut down the nets come the season finale against Wisconsin, one needs to look at Iowa's upcoming schedule in the month that has been so cruel; five of Iowa's next seven games, all of them in February, are road contests. It's two home games in the month are against Michigan, a team that looks like it could win the league, and Michigan State, at team that beat Iowa by 30 points just nine days ago.
Here is a look at the Big Ten standings with an emphasis on road wins and home losses. The +1 by Iowa's name means that it has one road win and has been perfect at home. For the sake of further explanation, had Iowa lost one home game and the rest of the games been the same, that column would be a break even:
Looking strictly at the road schedules, Illinois seems to have the most daunting task of any of the seven teams that are in the title hunt. I actually like Michigan State's road schedule the best of any of the contenders; I think Iowa's is somewhere in the middle.
By the way, most of the recent Big Ten champs have been +4 or +5 on the season in the column that I mentioned above. It's going to be hard for anyone to get there this year, which is why things might shake out the way they did in 2002 when four teams tied for the Big Ten title with records of 11-5. I still think 12-4 gets it this year. If the first half of the league is any indicator, and we are technically not done with the first half yet, four losses look good.
DON'T SLEEP ON PURDUE
No, the Boilers are not striking fear into the hearts of their opponents this season, but do not just assume that Iowa is going to waltz into Mackey Arena and win with the Boilers playing all nice and understanding.
This team beat Minnesota by 17 points earlier this year, the same Minnesota team that took Iowa to triple overtime and the same team that just beat Indiana. They also lost by three points at Michigan this year, and Michigan just beat Michigan State by three points in Chrysler Arena.
Purdue is allowing teams to make .456 from the floor in Big Ten play, but they lead the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage at .402. They are dead last in the league in turnover margin and assist to turnover ratio. Big man Matt Kiefer is averaging over 14 points per game and is second in the league in rebounding, collecting more than 10 caroms per contest.
Iowa has played great post defense against Marco Killingsworth and Terence Dials in back to back games.