Here's some fun facts for Iowa fans:
The last time Iowa won a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game: 2005.
The last time Iowa made it to the NCAA Tournament: 2005.
Do you believe in coincidences?
Iowa lost to Virginia Tech, 95-79, for their second straight loss to a quality opponent on Tuesday night (the other came during the Cancun Challenge Championship game to Wichita State) and things are again looking a bit bleak for Hawkeye basketball fans.
As I've almost explained to near exhaustion, the Iowa men's basketball team came into 2012 with high hopes; and for good reason. But as quick as those expectations skyrocketed during the first five games, they have come crashing back down to earth in the last two.
Same ol' Iowa team?
I'm not ready to decree them that yet; but the lack of defensive awareness this team is currently expressing may force my hand. Especially if their inability to show any signs of defensive life continues.
In the last two games, Fran McCaffery's team has given up 85 points on average. That's after giving up just 52.6 points in their first five games of the season against Texas-Pan American, Central Michigan, Howard, Gardner Webb (whom they were down 20 points at half to) and Western Kentucky.
Where do you currently sit on Iowa's NCAA Tournament chances?
The defense has been so uninspiring over the last two games that fans are going into a bit of a frenzy.
And I can't say I blame them. Actually, I'm leading the cause.
Defense, especially at the collegiate level, is all about heart.
The best defensive teams are mentally tougher than their opponents. They grind out every posession. They are hard headed. They are more competitive. They know every last one of your tendencies and force you away from them. They bend, but don't break.
But most importantly and above all of that, they cause frustration to the coach, players and fans of the opposing team.
I have not seen a single hint of that in the last two games for Iowa.
Care to disagree?
That's fine, but the five players in double figures for Virginia Tech beg to differ (with a sixth player one point away from his 10th of the night).
Going into the Viginia Tech game, the entire country knew that the Hokies wanted to dictate the tempo and get up as many shots as possible. They run a bit of an "organized chaos" type of offense, led by the quick triggered senior guard, Erick Green.
ESPN knew it. Fran should of known it. The players...not so much.
While I'm on the topic of Green, did anyone in an Iowa jersey want to prevent him from lighting them up? Did anyone want to take that on as their responsibility other than freshman Mike Gesell (who did an admirable job might I add)?
Again, not so much.
You name it and Iowa didn't do it on Tuesday night defensively. They gave up 17 fast break points. 46 points in the paint. 13 second chance points. And on top of all of that, the Hawkeyes sent the Hokies to the line 30 times (converting 27 of them).
So what does that mean?
Well, simply, Iowa didn't get back on defense (Did it seem as though it was three on two or five on three during every Virginia Tech fast break to anyone else but me?), they didn't bother to protect the lane, they didn't box out (a necessity if Fran is going to keep them in a 2-3 zone to use Woodbury as a threat instead of a liability) and they chose to use their hands instead of moving their feet.
That's not even mentioning the 10-1 run the Hokies ended the half on.
Oh and if some of you that didn't get to watch the game were wondering, there weren't any real halftime adjustments. Virginia Tech came out and extended that run in the second half to 19-2.
This was a barometer game for Iowa and it didn't turn out well. With losses to Wichita State and Virginia Tech in two straight games, suddenly the Iowa State and UNI games will be the only true out-of-conference resume builders when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding.
If this young team loses one of those two games, Iowa will have to clean house during the Big Ten portion of the schedule or they will be lucky to obtain a return bid to the NIT.
Fair or unfair, that would be a step back for Fran and company; no matter if we ARE talking about Iowa basketball after all.