This is the last of their nightmarish seven-game stretch to start the season that we all saw coming back in the fall when the schedule came out.
The Hoosiers are ranked #7 in the nation, and Iowa needed 19 points from Justin Johnson in the final 1:56 seconds to score a moral victory in a three-point loss to the Hoosiers in Iowa City nearly three weeks ago.
While I don't want to take away from that amazing finish for the Hawkeyes, and I don't want to forget that they played Indiana tough for roughly 75% of that ball game, the Hoosiers are the best team in the league this year.
That is my opinion, but I just don't see a team that possesses as many playmakers or as much raw talent as the Hoosiers have. The game will be in Assembly Hall, and Iowa has had some success there in recent years.
But I don't know who is going to match up against Eric Gordon, and it will take a total team effort to keep DJ White in check. The worst thing that can happen to Iowa is for Cyrus Tate to get into some early foul trouble in this game.
All that being said, and barring a major upset, the Hawks will probably emerge from that seven game gauntlet with a league mark of 2-5.
Iowa has six games remaining against teams with a current RPI ranking of 110 or worse: two with Penn State, two with Northwestern, one with Illinois and one with Michigan. Four of those six games will be in Carver Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa has a 44-5 record over the past three seasons.
If this team can somehow finish with a Big Ten record of 8-10 or better, I don't know if there is a coach in the league that would deserve coach of the year honors more than Todd Lickliter. Of course, he wouldn't win it with that sort of record, and Iowa could just as easily lose any of those six games.
Regardless of that premature talk, I am very pleased with the progress I have seen from the Hawks during their first month of Big Ten play…
TRANSFORMERS..MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Before our eyes, Tony Freeman is growing into a jump shooter, Cyrus Tate is showing poise and presence under the basket and Seth Gorney has turned into a physical presence on the block.
Over his last four games, Freeman has scored 90 points for the Hawkeyes, or an average of 22.5 points. He hasn't scored fewer than 19 points during that stretch, and the person who is going to benefit from Freeman's scoring spree will be Justin Johnson.
Since his six-three point shots in the final 1:56 against Indiana, Johnson has made a total of eight three's in his next five games. He has been drawing extra attention from defenders, and deservedly so; he has made 59 three's this year, far and away the best mark in the conference.
Freeman has made 20 three's in league play, which is the best in the league. He is also averaging 18.3 points per game in Big Ten play, which is #2 in the conference.
Tate and Gorney are tied for sixth in league play with 7.3 rebounds per game. Tate is averaging better than 11 points per game.
But what I like about both of these players during this stretch is that they are focusing on the areas they excel at. Gorney isn't trying to be something he is not with the ball in his hands, something he did a lot of last year. Tate isn't sitting at the elbow and taking jump shots, something he did a lot of last year.
Gorney is taking jump shots that he is capable of hitting, but he is hitting the defense glass like a fiend; he is #3 in the league in that category.
I have to say it; it's refreshing to watch so many players make improvements during the course of the year. That hasn't always been the case during the previous eight years.
STAT SHEET STUFFERS
-Kurt Looby is now 10th all time at Iowa with 86 blocked shots.
-Iowa ranks 15th in field goal defense (39.6%), and 43rd in scoring defense (58.1) nationally.
-Justin Johnson ranks 23rd nationally in three-point field goals per game (3.1).
-Iowa has won 10 of its last 12 home games against ranked opponents.
-Iowa is 43-92 (.597) from the free throw line in the final four minutes of its 10 games that have been decided by 10 points or less. Jake Kelly is 9-10 and Tony Freeman is 16-21
-Iowa has yet to score 80 points in a game this year.
-Iowa is 8-1 when leading at halftime, 1-8 when trailing at halftime
-Iowa will take part in the Las Vegas Invitational during the early portion of the 2008-09 season. The 2008 event will take place Nov. 28-29, 2008 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Iowa's bracket of opponents in Las Vegas will include Kentucky, Kansas State and West Virginia.