Dec. 31, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The intensity increases and the competition level on a game-to-game, night-in-and-night-out basis is raising to another level with the University of Iowa men's and women's basketball teams beginning Big Ten Conference play.
"There is more at stake," said UI head coach Lisa Bluder of the conference slate. "The intensity level rises because every game matters for the (NCAA) tournament and your seed for the Big Ten Tournament. It is a big ruler and a measuring stick, how well you do in the Big Ten. It intensifies a lot."
The Iowa men's team gets its league slate underway tonight, hosting Nebraska (8-3) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The women hit the road for its conference opener, facing undefeated Indiana (13-0) on Jan. 2 in Bloomington, Ind.
Collectively, the Hawkeyes rolled through the nonconference portion of their schedule, winning 85 percent of their games out-of-conference. The Iowa men are 11-2 with victories over Notre Dame and Xavier, while the Hawkeye women are 12-2 with triumphs over top-25 foes Dayton and Syracuse.
Junior Aaron White believes the Hawkeyes are primed and ready for the rigors of the Big Ten.
"We've been tested on the road, on a neutral floor and at home with Notre Dame," said White, who is leading the conference in field goal percentage (.678), while averaging 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. "You look at some of the teams we've played and Notre Dame has had success against Big Ten teams.
"This year, more so than our first two years, was our best schedule going into the Big Ten season. We've been ready for it our first two years, so we will be this year (too)."
Three Big Ten teams are ranked in the top-five of both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll in Ohio State (3/3), Wisconsin (4/5) and Michigan State (5/4). The Hawkeyes are 22nd in the AP, 23rd in Coaches Poll, while Michigan and Illinois are receiving votes. Six Big Ten schools are in the top 50 in the latest RPI ratings.
In order for the Iowa women to replicate their nonconference success junior Samantha Logic says it is imperative that the Hawkeyes bring their best each time they take the floor.
"The good thing about the Big Ten is anyone can win on any given night, anything can happen," said Logic. "We have to be ready for that."
The Hawkeyes are one of four Big Ten women's teams in the Associated Press Top-25, coming in at No. 22. Penn State is ranked highest at 15th, while Purdue and Nebraska are 17th and 18th, respectively; Indiana is receiving votes.
"The competition level grows immensely," said Bluder. "Every team in the Big Ten is good. We have five teams right now in the RPI top-30... it's a good league."
For Iowa to finish at the top or in the upper half of the Big Ten standings, defending Carver-Hawkeye Arena and stealing road wins are a must.
"You have to protect your home floor, everyone knows that," said UI head men's coach Fran McCaffery. "Everyone looks at the opportunity on the road... can we go and get a road win?
"What type of team do we have? Are we tough enough? Can we deal with the crowd? When you get to the end, the ones that were able to do that are the ones still standing are playing in March. It's a big test for us and one we'll be ready for."
Tonight's men's game against Nebraska is sold-out. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network with Cory Provus and Stephen Bardo on the call beginning at 6 p.m. (CT).