On short rest, Iowa men's basketball turns attention to NCAA Tournament opponent Richmond
Iowa's men's basketball players didn't have fatigue on their minds on Sunday afternoon. Playing their fourth game in four days, the Hawkeyes defeated Purdue 75-66 in the Big Ten Tournament championship game for their first conference title since 2006.
Keegan Murray, who played every minute on his way to tournament MVP honors, credited his team's approach to battling through the grueling tournament schedule.
"I feel like all of our guys had the championship mindset tonight," Murray said. "That soreness was out the window for us and anything that was bugging us was thrown out the window and we want to get the championship. All of our guys bought into that and won."
Now they'll have a similar, short turnaround for the NCAA Tournament. Minutes after their win, the Hawkeyes drew a 5-seed in the Midwest region and will play 12-seed and Atlantic 10 champion Richmond in the first round on Thursday. It'll be Iowa's sixth game in 11 days.
Similar to Iowa, Richmond needed four wins in four days for its conference title. The Spiders overcame two double-digit deficits in their first two games and upset top-seeded Davidson on Sunday as well.
Flexibility helped Iowa basketball in the Big Ten, could it lead to a deep NCAA run?
Short preparations aren't new to this Iowa team, said senior guard Jordan Bohannon. He believes that in a lot of ways their path to the Big Ten title prepared them for what they hope is a deep tournament run.
"It's what the Big Ten Conference kind of set us up for," Bohannon said. "We had (weather cancellations), so we played a one-day prep and it was no problem for us."
Looking back on his team's performance in the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery praised his team's approach to preparing for a new team daily. Especially in the Big Ten.
"They couldn't have done it any better. That's the truth," McCaffery said. "We're processing information rapidly when you're playing back to back to back to back. I mean, that's not easy to do because this league, as we all know, is incredibly challenging. But each team presents different challenges. Everybody plays differently. Everybody has different stars at different positions. So a masterful job by a very mature group."
Hawkeyes are ready for multiple-game stretch after Big Ten Tournament
The Hawkeyes' depth contributed to their championship win on Sunday and why they're well prepared for the possibility of playing two games in three games this weekend. The Hawkeyes played 12 of their 13 scholarship players against Purdue with only three players (Bohannon, Keegan Murray and Tony Perkins) playing more than 20 minutes. Multiple platoons of players make it difficult on opponents but also keeps players fresh.
It's also worth noting that outside of their semifinal and championship games, all of Iowa's victories since Feb. 1 have been by double digits (average margin of victory, 18.5 points). Iowa's key players sometimes haven't had to exert a lot of energy in the second half.
"Coach (McCaffery) calls a lot of guys off the bench and they're ready for their number to be called," Bohannon said. "I think that's what makes our team special because we have a lot of guys that can step up. Just like (on Sunday), (Josh Ogundele) stepped up huge coming in playing 10 minutes. I think that's why our conditioning level is so well because some guys can play their butts off for four- to eight-minute stretches and then another line comes in."
With the NCAA Tournament ahead, Iowa's tight schedule has 'been working' for players
Iowa's travel schedule leaves little time for recovery. The Hawkeyes flew back to Iowa City on Sunday night, then were set to fly to Buffalo on Tuesday, practice on Wednesday and play on Thursday.
Still, veterans such as Bohannon aren't too concerned. To his point, Iowa has found a groove playing this way. And the NCAA Tournament is motivation enough to play through physical ailments.
"It's been working for us," Bohannon said. "And this three-day prep is — honestly, it's a nice rest because we've had four games in four days, so I don't think we'll be too worried about it."
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.