Basketball teams usually start to improve after four solid months of practice, game tapes, and games.
They start to get in a groove and start to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are. They find out what works and what doesn't.
In their last regular season game of the year, the Iowa Hawkeyes lost to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 88-53. The 35-point loss was Iowa's worst of the season and worst in the last 21 years.
The Hawkeyes have not performed well away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena this year. Twelve of Iowa's 13 road games were lost by more than 17 points.
As The Gazette 's Scott Dochterman points out in an article, in their last four road games, "Iowa has an average margin of defeat of more than 25 points." Dochterman also points out several other heartbreaking facts, like the fact that three of Iowa's road losses this year (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Northern Iowa) were the worst Iowa losses to rivals in school history.
Head coach Todd Lickliter seems to have run out of excuses to explain his team's performance.
"There have been teams, good teams that have struggled to stay close on the road for whatever reason that is," Lickliter explained after Iowa's loss to Minnesota.
Struggling to stay close with a good team is one thing; struggling to not lose by more than 20 points is another.
The Gophers have a good basketball team, but they aren't the best team Iowa has seen this season. Saying that several teams have struggled on the road this year doesn't explain a 35-point loss to a mid-level conference opponent like Minnesota.
It's clear to fans that something needs to happen, but that topic has become a polarizing decision among the Hawkeye faithful that still care enough to pay attention.
Some want to give Lickliter another year to correct things. Others want to give him a first-class escort out of town.
In a situation that appears nearly identical to Iowa's, the University of Hawaii fired head coach Bob Nash recently after his team posted a 34-56 record over three seasons.
Nash, a former player at Hawaii, was hired as head coach in 2007 as an attempt to help revitalize the basketball program. His team posted an 11-19 record in his first season and went 13-17 in his second season. This year, his team went 10-20, winning only conference games all season.
"Ultimately this comes down to a business decision based on win-loss record, not Bob Nash's character or how well he performed in other aspects of the program," said UH athletic director Jim Donovan.
Nash's record is almost identical to Iowa's head coach. Lickliter has compiled a 37-56 record during his time as head coach at Iowa and currently holds the worst winning percentage of any head coach in the history of Iowa basketball.
Fans generally like Lickliter as a person, but character only goes so far when your team keeps breaking historic records for losing and attendance.
Iowa plays Michigan on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines are having a down year in their own right but have beaten the Hawkeyes in both contests this year.
Should Iowa lose, some fans might be quick to remind the university's athletic director Gary Barta that Fridays are the perfect day for a press conference.
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