Hawks Making Run at Some History?

Iowa is one game out of first place as they enter the final week of regular season play in the Big Ten Conference. There have been a few debates on the message boards as to whether or not this team has overachieved or underachieved this season. Some fans are talking about the latter, mainly due to the losses at Northwestern and Minnesota in the month of February. However, a dose of perspective might be needed, or if not perspective, a look at some things from a different point of view.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are one game out of first place as they enter the final week of regular season play in the Big Ten Conference.

There have been a few debates on the message boards as to whether or not this team has overachieved or underachieved this season.

Some fans are talking about the latter, mainly due to the losses at Northwestern and Minnesota in the month of February.

However, I think a dose of perspective might be needed, or if not perspective, a look at some things from a different point of view.

Before the season began, I ran down each game and put a ‘W' or an ‘L' by each game, something I do each year. I wavered between an 11-3 or 12-2 pre-conference mark, with a loss in the Guardians Classic and a loss at UNI. I was iffy on the game in Ames.

In the conference portion of the schedule, I had Iowa at 7-2 through nine games, losing at Wisconsin and Michigan State. The 10th game was at Northwestern, and I gave Iowa a win there, too. The next four games after that, at Indiana, home against Michigan State, at Minnesota and at Illinois, I saw Iowa taking a four-game losing streak to close out the month.

Iowa's February record under Steve Alford prior to this year was 15-27, and I saw them going 3-4 this year in the month. Iowa went 4-3 for the month, impressive when you consider that five of their seven games were on the road; the Hawks went 2-3 in those contests.

In looking back at my predictions, I had Iowa sitting at 8-6 in league play with two to go, and 20-8 overall. I pegged the later but underestimated the former.

Should Iowa win their next two games at home, that puts them at 22-8 for the regular season and 11-5 in league play; Iowa's best league finish under Alford is 9-7.

If you remember back to September and October, most of the preseason magazines picked Iowa to finish in the upper division of the league, but few if any pegged them to finish in second place or be contending for the league title with two games to play.

Those that feel this team overachieved, I guess that could be their argument. But when you consider that the Big Ten has been the strongest RPI league in the nation all year long and currently has six teams in the Top 25 of the RPI, I see very little logic behind any argument that says this team underachieved.

You would have to be some kind of pessimist to make that statement.

THE ALFORD ERA

This is surely too soon to talk about it, but what the heck, I am in the mood.

The reason I am in the mood is reading some of the comments on the message boards related to Alford and possibly moving onto Indiana. There is a mixed bag of sentiment; some are fine to see him go, some wish to see him stay.

Some of the negative events over the last six years will be hard for some to let go if, but this has been a very good season.

IF…IF Iowa can close out the 2005-2006 regular season with two home wins to finish 11-5, here are some things to chew on.

A Big Ten record of 11-5 would be Alford's best, and the second place finish would tie for Iowa's highest finish in 22 years. There has only been one other instance in the last 17 years where an Iowa team won more than 11 games in league play and that was 12 wins in 1997; they played 18 games in the league season then compared to the 16 of today. It would be the best league-only winning percentage in a year since Dr. Tom's first year when Iowa went 14-4 en route to an Elite Eight appearance. There is also a decent chance that this team could win 24 games or more; 24 wins would tie for the second highest single season total all time, 25 wins would have that mark to its lonesome.

All I am trying to say is that there is a wonderful season going on when compared to the last 20+ years of Iowa basketball results, and I am afraid that there is a significant portion of the fan base that is not allowing itself to enjoy it.

Those persons might look back in a few years and compare the success of this team to that of some of the teams in the past and wonder, ‘Where was I?'.

BIG TEN NOTES

Big Ten Hits Attendance Milestone: The Big Ten reached two attendance landmarks last weekend as the conference broke the two-million mark in all games for the 14th straight season, while also reaching the one-million plateau for league games only for the 29th consecutive season. So far in 2006, 2,025,426 patrons have passed through the turnstiles for 161 games for an average attendance of 12,580. In league contests, 1,061,367 fans have flocked to conference arenas for 78 games. In 2004-05, the conference led the nation in total attendance for the 29th-straight season with 2,255,332 total patrons and led the way with an average attendance of 12,530 per game/session.

Double-Double For Brunner?: Iowa's Greg Brunner, who is currently registering 15.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per conference game this year, is vying to become the only Big Ten standout to finish the conference season averaging a double-double. Brunner would be the first player since Minnesota's Kris Humphries tallied an average of 21.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game during the 2003-04 season.

Horton Eyes Big Ten Free Throw Season Records: With one week left in the conference season, Michigan's Daniel Horton continues to keep pace with two Big Ten records. Overall, he is shooing 93.0 percent (106-of-114) from the free throw line, which is currently ahead of the all-time Big Ten record held by former Hoosier and current Iowa head coach Steve Alford, who shot 92.1 percent (116-of-126) during the 1984-85 season. In addition, Horton is shooting 97.4 percent (76-of-78) in just Big Ten games, which is ahead of Alford's record of 93.5 percent (58-of-62) set in 1985.

Big Ten Career Records Update: Several Big Ten standouts are vying to move up the league's career records list this week. Illinois' Dee Brown currently ranks sixth on the league's all-time assists list with 643 and only needs three more to move past Michigan's State's Scott Skiles, who is fifth with 645. In addition, Brown ranks sixth on both the career three-point field goals made (288) and steals (219) lists. Iowa senior Jeff Horner is also ranked among the league's top 10 in career assists with 586 dishes for ninth place, while listed eighth on the all-time three-pointers chart (246). In the rebounding category, Illinois' James Augustine (981) and Iowa's Greg Brunner (952) are on pace to become just the 11th and 12th player, respectively in Big Ten history to record 1,000 career rebounds. The last Big Ten standout to record more than 1,000 all-time boards was Indiana's Alan Henderson, who concluded his four-year career with 1,091 rebounds to rank fifth on the conference's career list. Ohio State's Jerry Lucas (1959-62) is the Big Ten's rebounding leader with 1,411 boards.

Big Ten Homecourt Winning Streak: With Michigan State falling to Ohio State at the Breslin Center last Wednesday, Iowa currently holds the league's longest homecourt winning streak as the Hawkeyes boast 16 consecutive wins at home. Iowa, who will close out the regular season with two home games, is undefeated at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season with a school-record 15 wins and has broken the arena record with 16 consecutive home victories going back to last season. The Hawkeyes have not lost at home since Illinois defeated Iowa, 76-65, on Feb. 19, 2005.

Greg Brunner has 11 double-doubles on the season, second to the 13 posted by Michigan State's Paul Davis. Brunner leads active Big Ten players with 30 career double-doubles, with Davis and Illinois' James Augustine with 26 each.


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