'We have the talent': For No. 20 Hawkeyes, it's all about the march to March
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa men’s basketball team had just picked up its most significant road victory of the season Thursday when point guard Jordan Bohannon turned to his favorite subject: March.
That’s when college hoops dreams are realized, and Bohannon has been beating the drum since the beginning of the season. He believes his No. 20 Hawkeyes are good enough to compete with anybody in the month that matters most.
“I think it’s a statement game and a difference-maker,” Bohannon said after Iowa beat Indiana 77-72. “We were just talking about it in the locker room. It doesn’t matter where you get a win at, especially this year, it’s going to be big for your schedule and your resume going forward in March.”
Iowa (18-5, 7-5 Big Ten Conference) got its biggest home win of the season Feb. 1 by beating Michigan. That’s back-to-back statements from a team that is keeping its head down in practice sessions, but its eyes up when envisioning what can be.
As of Friday, the Hawkeyes ranked 23rd in the NCAA’s NET rankings, which will be used to help seed teams in the NCAA Tournament. That puts them solidly in the field, vying for a 5 seed.
Next up is a 5:30 p.m. Sunday home game vs. Northwestern (12-10, 3-8) that will be shown on BTN. Iowa already owns a 73-63 road win over the Wildcats. That was seen as a resume-builder at the time.
“For us to keep climbing that seed level to the Big Ten Tournament, we’ve got to just keep coming up with these wins,” Bohannon said.
Iowa sits in sixth place in the 14-team league with eight games to play. Most experts think the Big Ten, the strongest conference in the country so far, could get nine or 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament.
The Hawkeyes, who have missed the past two NCAA tournaments, are focused on playing well in the league tourney in Chicago next month — and then in the one that counts.
“I think this is a big win for us in terms of conference rankings as well. Road win at Indiana. Give ourselves a little bit of separation,” Iowa senior Nicholas Baer said Thursday. “I think coming in here and getting a win says that we’re able to play in tough environments and we’ve been able to show that this year.”
Athletes often talk about taking things one day at a time and not looking too far ahead. Bohannon said the Hawkeyes are doing both.
He referenced a favorite quote from Iowa assistant coach Sherman Dillard: “You have to start with the end in mind.”
“You’ve got to take it day by day like I’ve always been saying. But you also have to realize what’s your ultimate goal. And our ultimate goal is to get to the Final Four,” Bohannon said after scoring 25 points to doom the Hoosiers.
“You guys laughed at me when I said that last year, and I knew we had the team and talent to do that. And I said that at the beginning of the season this year. I still think we have the talent and we have to just keep staying together. And if we keep coming out with these wins, it’s going to be big for us going forward in March.”
And maybe even the month after? The Final Four is being held April 6-8 in Minneapolis.
Bohannon already knew that.