What's buzzing:

Hawkeyes stumble into Big Ten tournament

The Associated Press
Hawkeyes stumble into Big Ten tournament
.

View photo

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery gives instructions during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game …

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa is likely just days away from its first NCAA tournament berth in eight years, but that's about the last thing on the mind of its fan base.

They're wondering what happened to their beloved Hawkeyes.

Iowa (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten) finished the regular season in a freefall hardly anyone saw coming.

The Hawkeyes have lost five of their last six games - all after a postponement at Indiana altered their schedule - and closed with a brutal home loss to Illinois, 66-63, on Saturday night.

Iowa, once a trendy pick for a long run through the postseason, somehow managed to finish with the exact same regular season record as it had a year ago when it went to the NIT.

The Hawkeyes hope to start fresh on Thursday against Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

''We've got to get back to playing hard defensively. Get back to making the game fun,'' Iowa forward Aaron White said. ''We lost our swag, lost how we were playing, lost our confidence. And when you lose that, it's not as fun. We had a phenomenal practice (Monday) and really got after it. I kind of look at this as a new season. It really doesn't matter what happened. Clean slate and start over.''

The Hawkeyes probably won't have to sweat out an NCAA tournament bid. They've played a strong schedule that features seven road/neutral wins and five victories over teams in the top 50 of the RPI as of Tuesday.

But there's a big difference between making the NCAA tournament and doing something once you get there.

It's not a good sign when your own coach describes you as ''fragile'' following the regular season finale, which Fran McCaffery did after the Illini stunned the Hawkeyes on a 3 just before the buzzer.

Defensive lapses have been a big issue for Iowa, which has allowed at least 75 points and been outrebounded in five of its last six games.

Those are both signs that the Hawkeyes could use some fresher legs. But that's not going to happen, especially after the loss to Illinois helped cost the Hawkeyes a bye in the Big Ten tournament.

Even a berth in the league title game would mean four games in four days for Iowa.

''We're not as in sync as we were, and I'm hopeful that we've been able to go back to some of the basic things that we needed to fix,'' McCaffery said. ''There's not one thing. It's collective. And I think the encouraging thing for us is this particular team has played excellent defense this year. And that's what our goal is, to go back and play that kind of defense again.''

For many teams, the one-and-done nature of March can erase a tremendous regular season in a single shot.

For Iowa, it's a chance to erase two weeks of misery and re-ignite a resurgence that lasted nearly all season.

The Hawkeyes remain one of the nation's deepest teams, and they've shown in spurts that they can play with anyone. But Iowa is undoubtedly playing worse than it did a month ago, and teams that enter the postseason in trouble typically don't fix themselves in March.

The trick for the Hawkeyes, according to White, is simply to rediscover the form that made them so dangerous to begin with.

''Despite losing five of six, a month or two ago we were a top-10 team. None of that talent is gone. No one is hurt,'' White said. ''There's no reason to lose the confidence that we built over the season.''

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (18)
  • Japan approves $1.5b deal for new Tokyo Olympic stadium

    Japan approves $1.5b deal for new Tokyo Olympic stadium

    The Japanese government approved a 150 billion yen ($1.5 billion) contract Friday to build a new main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a project that has been delayed by more than a year. Officials said the stadium construction would begin in … More »

    AP - Sports - 11 minutes ago
  • Hamilton tops hot and fiery practice in Malaysia

    Hamilton tops hot and fiery practice in Malaysia

    Lewis Hamilton fired the latest shot in the close Formula One title fight against Nico Rosberg by edging his Mercedes teammate and setting the fastest time in Friday's practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Rosberg had bettered Hamilton in every … More »

    AP - Sports - 22 minutes ago
  • Mi Jung Hur eagles 2 of last 3, tied with Brooke Henderson

    ''Last hole, I had a 230 yards to the flag and I just hit a 3-wood,'' Hur said. Henderson shot her second straight 66 , saving par on 18 with a 6-footer to match Hur at 14-under 132 in the Asian Swing opener. ''My first time to China, and it's … More »

    AP - Sports - 24 minutes ago
  • Birmingham to bid for 2026 Commonwealth Games

    (Reuters) - Birmingham is entering the race to stage the 2026 Commonwealth Games with the British city's council leader saying the event would provide an enormous boost to the region's economy. The West Midlands city, which hosted two games for … More »

    Reuters - 28 minutes ago
  • Games-Birmingham to bid for 2026 Commonwealth Games

    Birmingham is entering the race to stage the 2026 Commonwealth Games with the British city's council leader saying the event would provide an enormous boost to the region's economy. The West Midlands city, which hosted two games for last year's … More »

    Reuters - 31 minutes ago