Devyn Marble

Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski (3) defends as Iowa's Devyn Marble drives to the basket during the first half of Thursday's game in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Jim Prisching

IOWA CITY - Enough of the start-and-stop schedule, which has to have felt like sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic to the Iowa men's basketball team for four weeks.

With six games in the final 17 days of the Big Ten Conference regular season - beginning Thursday at Penn State - Iowa won't have another layoff from games lasting longer than three days until preparation for the Big Ten Tournament in early March.

Players typically prefer playing, resting and practicing in rhythm - not conducive to the three breaks of eight, four and six days in between live games over the past 30 days.

"I don't really like having breaks off," sophomore guard Devyn Marble said. "That's just my preference - every team gets them. But I would prefer to keep having games."

The Hawkeyes (13-12, 5-7 Big Ten) probably can't use fatigue as an excuse by this point. They had some time off before getting back to the drawing board following another lackluster defensive effort in Thursday's 83-64 loss at Northwestern.

"We gave them more rest. We gave them Friday off, then we practiced hard Saturday, hard and long," coach Fran McCaffery said. "We gave them Sunday off, and then we went hard yesterday. I think it was good."

Travel also becomes less of a factor when the Hawkeyes return from State College, Pa., late Thursday night. Iowa gets two home games next week against ranked squads (No. 18 Indiana and No. 5 Wisconsin) before a two-game swing at nearby Illinois and Nebraska.

The 18-game league slate concludes March 3 with a Northwestern rematch, back at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It's a slightly more grueling stretch than Iowa has endured lately, but if anything else, it will prepare legs for the Big Ten Tournament from March 8-11. At this juncture, it appears any NCAA Tournament hopes rest on winning four games in four days - something no Big Ten team other than the 2001 Hawkeyes has ever done.

"We even got a few days off from practice to rest our legs and body," sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe said. "It's for the games - that's why you work in the summer, for the main event when everything comes together. Should be a fun stretch."

Against lesser competition, Iowa opened the season with six games in 16 days. During this year, the Hawkeyes are 4-3 with at least three days to prepare for an opponent, but that includes consecutive losses to Nebraska and Northwestern.

Vote for Marble's dunk: Marble said he had to pay a visit "to the top floor" late in Iowa's win over Minnesota on Feb. 1 to make a momentum-shifting slam.

That play was nominated for the GEICO Play of the Year. First, it has to win the fan voting against three other plays made by Northern Iowa's Anthony James, Oregon State's Jared Cunningham and Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr.

You can vote for Marble on the official Facebook page - The page indicated Marble holds a heavy lead, with voting concluding Monday at 11 a.m.

The eight weekly finalists compete in a week-long competition in March to be named the year's best play.