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Schwartz – 10 Thoughts as Hawkeyes Prepare for Gophers

It’s been a quiet week in Hawkeye Country—hardly a wink of football news, which means basketball finally has the stage to itself, at least until spring football rolls around or Player X makes headlines for Reasons Y or Z. In the meantime, here are 10 thoughts in 10 sentences:

1. Thursday’s men’s basketball game against Michigan State didn’t go as planned, or perhaps we should say “hoped” instead of “planned,” since whenever Iowa plays the Spartans you just cross your fingers and wish for the best.

2. Come to think of it, the first half of the game was great—it was the second half that left something to be desired, so let’s start over …

3. So the second half of Thursday’s men’s basketball game against Michigan State didn’t go as hoped.

4. Usually when the Hawkeyes lose, I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours aggravated, thinking about what should have happened differently here or there to change the outcome, but that never happens after basketball losses to Michigan State.

5. There’s nothing to contemplate; the program operates in a different dimension from Iowa’s—Michigan State basketball and Iowa basketball, while both have value, are like two completely unique sports.

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6. And that’s fine, because now we move on to today’s game against Minnesota, which resembles the Hawkeyes in that they <i>seem</i> like a pretty good team until they <i>don’t</i> seem like a pretty good team and then you start to question everything you know about college basketball.

7. Which makes sense when one looks at the standings, in which Iowa and the Gophers are separated by just a half-game; both are far better at home than on the road; both have that feeling that their Big Ten ceiling is fourth place and their floor is ninth.

8. Today’s game is in the Twin Cities, which doesn’t bode well for the Hawkeyes, but even more relevantly, bodes especially well for Minnesota, which has lost just once at home all season and badly needs a win to keep from falling below .500 in the Big Ten and down into the conference’s abyss along with schools like Nebraska and Northwestern.

9. Which, of course, has been Minnesota’s M.O. under Richard Pitino, and before that Tubby Smith, and before that Dan Monson (but not before that under Clem Haskins, their last truly successful coach, although under Haskins the Gophers also landed on NCAA probation).

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10. All of which makes today’s Iowa-Minnesota game—if you’re a casual college basketball fan with no ties to either school—a profoundly average, forgettable and inconsequential game between two programs that seem incapable of making the leap to the next level, but if you are a fan of another Big Ten school, it’s a semi-interesting contest with possible consequences for March’s Big Ten Tournament, and if you’re an Iowa or Minnesota fan, it’s this weekend’s Game of the Year, full of implications and meaning and emotion, and it’s those varying degrees of excitement and/or apathy from the different fan bases that forms the basis of what it means to follow college athletics.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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