March 11, 2014
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Seven months later, the University of Iowa men's basketball team's goal remains the same heading to Indianapolis for the 2014 Big Ten Tournament.
"We are going to try to win a Big Ten championship, but we said that first when we convened before we went overseas -- we're here to win a Big Ten championship, let's go get ready for that," UI head coach Fran McCaffery during a Tuesday news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "That's what we're going to try to do this week."
Iowa heads to Bankers Life Fieldhouse as the No. 6 seed, where it will square off against No. 11 seed Northwestern in a first-round matchup Thursday at approximately 8 p.m. (CT). The Hawkeyes swept the two regular season meetings, winning both contests by 26 points.
McCaffery believes his team is mature enough to not look past the Wildcats toward a potential Friday night matchup against No. 3 Michigan State.
"I don't think our guys have ever done that," said McCaffery. "We're mature enough to know and understand, and we're respectful of that program. We've had some very difficult games with them, and everybody knows how good Drew Crawford is."
Northwestern finished the regular season with a 13-18 overall and 6-12 Big Ten record under first-year head coach Chris Collins. Crawford was the Wildcats' top scorer and rebounder, averaging 15.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
After playing five games in 16 days, the Hawkeyes have had time to regroup to fine-tune some of the things that made them a top-10 team in late January.
"We're not in sync as we were, and I'm hopeful we've been able to go back to some of the basic things we needed to fix," said McCaffery. "When you look at everything, it's in its entirety.
"Yesterday we had a terrific practice, we'll turn around and do the same things today, leave tomorrow and have one more until we play Thursday."
Even though the Hawkeyes finished with the same overall (20-11) record and Big Ten mark (9-9) as last season, McCaffery says the current campaign felt dramatically different.
"We clearly challenged ourselves with a much more difficult nonconference schedule," he said. "We were handed a substantially more competitive conference schedule, and we handled it well.
"We obviously didn't want to lose five of our last six, and we lost some games that we could have won."
Iowa is 15-14 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes won tournament titles in 2001 and 2006 and lost in the championship game in 2002.
Thursday's game will be televised on ESPN2 with Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich and Allison Williams on the call.