For the first time this season, the Iowa basketball team will have the experience of trying to bounce back from a defeat.
And it’s going to have to do it on the road against the team that was the consensus preseason favorite to win the Big Ten title.
The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes go into a hostile environment for the first time this season when they play No. 9 Michigan State at 5:30 p.m. today at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
It wouldn’t be an easy task under any conditions and in this case, the Hawkeyes are reeling from a 72-66 home loss to No. 22 Wisconsin in their Big Ten opener on Friday night. It was an intense, hard-fought tussle that could have gone either way. Iowa led by eight points in the middle of the second half — the largest lead by either team all night — and still was up by one with two minutes to go.
“We were right there. We should have had them,’’ junior guard Jordan Bohannon lamented after the game. “We just need to find a way to move on from this.’’
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is confident that his team will do that.
“We talked about it after the game — the good, the bad, challenged some guys,’’ McCaffery said. “Overall, I was impressed with our fight. It wasn't a thing of beauty. We didn't make some plays coming down the stretch we would like to have made, and they did. That's why they won.
“But I thought we fought. I thought we did some really good things. I don't think we played that well in the first half and fought to a tie. So you treat it like any other situation: You review the film. You make your teaching points. You move on to Michigan State.’’
The Spartans (6-2) didn’t have an easy opener themselves as they trailed by eight points early and finally pulled out a 78-67 victory on the road at Rutgers.
The first night of league play was an indication of how balanced the Big Ten appears to be this season. The team generally picked to win the league title was only 11 points better than the team almost everyone expects to finish last.
It appears as though almost every game on the league’s new 20-game schedule has the potential to be what Wisconsin coach Greg Gard described as a “fistfight.’’
“It’s as strong as it’s ever been since I’ve been here,’’ Iowa senior forward Nicholas Baer said of the Big Ten. “That’s what you want … That’s why you come to play at this level.’’
There doesn’t appear to be a weak link. Seven Big Ten teams were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 last week and three others received votes. Of the four teams that did not receive votes, three won their games in last week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week. The one that didn’t, Illinois, lost by only two points on the road at Notre Dame.
“Maybe we’re not quite as strong at the top,’’ Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of the Big Ten after his team held off Rutgers. “But I think the bottom and the middle are dynamite.’’