March 04, 2016

Careers that started with so much promise are winding down for Michigan's Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht as spectators of a mediocre season. For Iowa, a season that built so much promise two months ago is winding down with a lengthy losing streak.

Both conclude the regular season Saturday night in Ann Arbor jockeying for position in the Big Ten tournament with the Wolverines seeking a win over the 16th-ranked Hawkeyes to pad a questionable NCAA Tournament resume.

It was nearly three years ago that LeVert and Albrecht carved out reserve roles as freshmen on a national finalist team, followed by sophomore seasons as more heavily featured players on a team that fell three points short of returning to the Final Four.

Their Crisler Center send-off now comes with both shut down for the season, though Albrecht could redshirt, as Michigan (20-10, 10-7) tries to start cleaning up a 3-5 span since the start of February with a third straight home win.

"I always say my first two years, I thought it was just like a walk in the park: We're going to win a lot of games, not much adversity," said Albrecht, who had hip surgery last offseason and has played eight games in 2015-16 while LeVert announced this week that his season is done after dealing with a lingering leg issue for two months. "Everything's going great when you're winning. Last year and this year, a little bit of a reality check."

Iowa (20-9, 11-6), meanwhile, has lost four in a row and is one game ahead of the Wolverines after starting conference play 7-0 and climbing as high as No. 3, yet coach Fran McCaffery considered Tuesday's 81-78 home loss to No. 12 Indiana the bounce-back effort the Hawkeyes needed.

"I think we already have. I'm not worried about that at all," said McCaffery, whose team needs a victory and additional help to secure a top-four spot and double-bye in the conference tournament. "We were in a position to win. We fought."

To be fair, none of Iowa's losses have been terribly alarming. They've all come by eight points or fewer, making it one of six teams to not lose a game by double figures. Though the fact remains the Hawkeyes are in danger of dropping five straight for the first time since a six-game skid in 2010-11 because they've fallen off offensively.

Iowa has averaged 69.0 points and shot 38.3 percent overall and 32.9 from 3-point range on the slide after being at 78.2, 45.3 and 39.0 over its 11-2 Big Ten start. Top scorer Jarrod Uthoff has been a big part of the dip, shooting 31.6 percent and going 6 of 25 from long range. No. 2 scorer Peter Jok has consistently fallen off over the last four games from 28 points to eight and is shooting 36.5 percent.

"We need to play together, have a positive vibe and go out there and win," Uthoff told the school's official website. "I am sick of losing."

The impressive 13-game start to conference play included an 82-71 home win over Michigan with Uthoff scoring 23. The Hawkeyes have won the last three meetings by an average of 15.7 points while shooting 53.2 percent and 48.0 from deep.

Michigan, which can't finish higher than seventh, will be happy to play at home after Sunday's 68-57 loss to Wisconsin dropped it to 3-5 on the road in the Big Ten. Regardless of venue, the Wolverines' struggles over the past eight games have come defensively with opponents shooting 50.3 percent and 38.8 from 3-point range after entering that span at 42.4 and 33.5.

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