The Monday Tipoff: Hawkeyes Are In The Middle For A Wild Two Weeks

Iowa players celebrate during Thursday's win over Ohio State. (Jeffrey Becker/USA Today Sports)

John Bohnenkamp

Fran McCaffery says he's not looking.

His Iowa team is right in the middle of the mess at the top of the Big Ten standings. But McCaffery said during his Monday teleconference he's not one to glance at the standings.

"I don’t ever really get into that with (the players) at all," McCaffery said. "You go into the next game with incredible respect for our next opponent, and what we think we have to do based on the previous couple of games for us to be better, and what we’re going to have to do in this particular game.

"In my career, I’ve never really gotten into standings."

If McCaffery isn't looking, that's probably a good thing, because there's a lot of chaos surrounding the Hawkeyes.

Maryland leads the conference at 12-4. Iowa is one of four teams at 10-6, joining Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Illinois could join that group with a win on Monday night against Nebraska.

Michigan is one game back. Rutgers is 1 1/2 games back.

You think this season has been crazy?

Just wait until you see the final two weeks. Because anything is possible.

Maryland has a two-game lead with four games to go, and yet it seems tenuous. And if you're in that 10-6 pack, any stumble sends everyone else racing by you.

Wisconsin was struggling a few weeks ago, and now is in the middle of the mess. Illinois is recovering from a four-game losing streak.

Everybody, it seems, has had its blemishes this season.

The Hawkeyes control their own fate in all of this congestion. Their next two games are against teams in that knot with them — Tuesday at Michigan State, Saturday at home against Penn State. They already control the tiebreaker with Wisconsin, having beaten the Badgers in their lone matchup this season. They also own the tiebreaker with Rutgers, should the Scarlet Knights scramble back into this mix.

And two of Iowa's final four games are at home, where they have a 12-game winning streak.

The Hawkeyes, short-handed since the calendar flipped to 2020, have worked to get into this position, and to have that kind of control of destiny this late in the season is something to appreciate.

It's been a dizzying ride that had a brief start in early December, then reached full speed in January. Wins and losses have taken on bigger significance, just because of everything spinning around the league.

The Hawkeyes have done a good job this season of avoiding losing streaks — they have lost back-to-back games only once. They take a two-game winning streak into Tuesday's game in the Breslin Center, where Iowa teams have gone 3-22.

Asked why his teams have struggled there, McCaffery said simply, "They usually have a pretty good team."

It's nothing but good teams the rest of the way for the Hawkeyes. There may be a stumble.

The key to surviving the next two weeks is to watch your step. The best way to do that is just look where you're going.

That's why it's probably best to do what McCaffery says he does.

Don't look at everything going on around you.