Time was when hunkering down in front of the TV set on Selection Sunday meant three or four days of analyzing Iowa's upcoming opponent, trying to convince yourself that Iowa could make it to the Final Eight and filling out your bracket with that thought in mind.
Now, that meant that you were likely out of your office pool competition after the first weekend, but who cares; at least the Hawks were in the tournament.
Between 1978-1998, Iowa was in the tournament 16 times. That's 16 out of 21 years. That's 76% of the time…three out of four…however you wish to slice it, that was a lot and that was on par with the major programs in the nation.
1998 was Dr. Tom Davis' last year at Iowa, and that was a surprising Sweet 16 run.
Since that season, Iowa has one just one NCAA tournament game, has made the field of 65 just three times, been good enough to garner an at large selection two times, and even that is debatable. That means that the Hawks have missed out on the Big Dance 66% of the time over the last nine years.
During that time, Wisconsin has grown into a powerhouse program in the Big Ten. With all due respect to them, and they deserve it, they have done this during a relative downturn in quality as it relates to Big Ten basketball.
Play in the league this year was downright hideous at times, and that is not coming just from an Iowa perspective, as we watched the Hawks top the 60-point barrier in just six league games.
Halftime scores with both teams scoring under 30 points seemed to be the norm this year, and not the exception. Iowa's 43-36 win over Michigan State at home set the game back to the peach basket and laces era. Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern were not much better this year, having seen a lot of their games.
Iowa's missing the Big Dance in six or the last nine years is all the more painful because the league just hasn't been as good, on the whole, during that time as it was in the early 1990's and the entire decades of the 1980's and 1970's.
Sure, Michigan State has made a few finals fours and won a national title, and Ohio State has made it to two final fours and Wisconsin to one during that time. Illinois made it to the national title game as well.
There have been exceptions, but the entire league has not followed suit.
During a time where the Big Ten has been down, Iowa has had its worst stretch of post season participation since the NCAA tournament became ‘The NCAA Tournament', which was 1979 when we had Indiana State verses Michigan State, and Larry Bird verses Magic Johnson.
That's when the tournament soared in to the stratosphere that it still plays in.
Did you realize that the last two years of Iowa Basketball, two years that have not seen the Hawkeyes get invited to any post season tournament, is the first such stretch since 1977-1978? And the 1970 team won 20 games.
Iowa has to get better in these areas to make steps forward:
Field goal Shooting
Taking care of the ball (reducing turnovers)
Free throw shooting
Wisconsin led the Big Ten with 11.2 turnovers per game, the fewest in the league. They were also #1 in the league in points per game allowed and field goal percentage allowed.
They were not All World shooters from the floor, but they led the league in free throw percentage.
Add it up, and they were 19-2 in Big Ten games, winning the regular season and tournament championships.
They are not the most talented team in the Big Ten, but they play most like a team of any squad in the league.
They always do, and they usually don't have the best talent.
Todd Lickliter will likely never have the best talent in the Big Ten, but his teams need to do the things that Wisconsin does well, in order to compete in this league.
The good news for Iowa fans, is that is exactly what his focus is. That is what his Butler teams did, and what he is looking to build at Iowa. It's just going to take some time, because when he took over at Butler, those principles were already put into place.
This year's recruiting class is exciting to me because it is full of players that can shoot the basketball. Players that seem to be selfless on the court and players that are excellent students in the classroom.
That's a good start. And it's going to take some time before Iowa wins more than it loses and before it can make Selection Sunday the kind of day that it used to be here in the Hawkeye State.