Iowa Delivers Long-Awaited Statement Victory with Blowout over Michigan

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Iowa Delivers Long-Awaited Statement Victory with Blowout over Michigan
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Spor

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa star Roy Devyn Marble nearly went all Richard Sherman on the media inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Reporters threw around words like "surprised" and "validated" after No. 17 Iowa had bullied 10th-ranked Michigan for 40 minutes in a 85-67 win, and Marble wasn't about to buy in to some kind of 'this came out of nowhere' narrative.

"It isn't like I had a lucky game," he said, referencing his 26 points.

"Validate?" he later snapped back. "... I don't feel like I need validation or we need validation from anybody. We know how good we are and we know what it takes to be successful."

Matthew Holst/Getty Images

But on the last two Tuesdays at home, the Hawkeyes had missed opportunities to put themselves in the Big Ten title race and remain in the national conversation.

First, they lost to an undermanned Michigan State—down two starters—in overtime. This past Tuesday, Ohio State avenged Iowa's win in Columbus in early January.

"I just had a talk with Coach yesterday, and the headline was 'Ohio State upsets Iowa,'" senior Zach McCabe said. "My freshman year there was no chance in the world that you'd ever see something like that."

Fair or not, the Hawkeyes were settling in to a "nice little story." The sense that maybe they were just good but not great was starting to develop.

It's easy to question the team that hasn't been here before.

And it has been eight years since Iowa played in the NCAA tournament, back to the Steve Alford era.

When Fran McCaffery and Marble arrived four years ago, his first team won only four games in the Big Ten. 

Last season, a 9-9 conference record and a run to the NIT title game showed progress, but that's second-class citizen stuff in the Big Ten.

That has made this season—with the rankings and the sell-outs (now eight) and ESPN in-house for a Saturday game—the arrival.

And with all that, the expectations have been like nothing they've ever experienced. 

"People want you to take outstanding leaps, and that isn't how it works," Marble said. "Even me as a player, (Aaron) White and all these guys that have gotten better year to year, it takes time and it takes practice. We're not going to just win every game and do like what Syracuse is doing. They do this every year. We're still a team learning and a program trying to find that mix of guys that can come in year to year and produce 20 to 30-win seasons."

Well, even Marble could be selling this team short.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Spor

Because, yes, it will be great progress to win 20 games this year and to get in the tournament, but the reason losses to Michigan State and Ohio State were sold as disappointments was because this team has the look of a squad that could go on a run in March.

That's what we saw on Saturday as the Hawkeyes dominated the Big Ten's first-place team—a team that had won 11 of 12 games—in every which way.

"We ran into a buzzsaw today," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "This is the way they were playing first semester no matter who they were playing against."

At that time, the Hawkeyes were looking like a smart Final Four sleeper pick.

Still, they've become respected for their quality loses—Villanova, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, all by single digits—than their quality wins. 

On Saturday, that finally changed. 

It's time to no longer be surprised. No need for validation. The Hawkeyes are no longer a second-class citizen in the Big Ten. 

We get it, Roy. Props. 

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.

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