Hawkeyes not perfect, but in good spot in Big Ten

Ryan Murken

At 4-1, Iowa isn't quite in a perfect position five games into the Big Ten season.

Samantha Logic was quick to point that fact out Wednesday night.

"We'd rather be 5-0," Logic quipped when asked about the Hawkeyes' 4-1 start to conference play.

The 4-1 start may not be exactly the scenario Logic and her Iowa teammates had in mind especially given the circumstances of the one blemish on the Hawkeyes' conference record.

Still alone in second place in the Big Ten standings, Iowa finds itself in an enviable spot nearly a third of the way through its 18-game conference slate.

With its 83-70 win over Northwestern on Wednesday, No. 22 Iowa (13-3) did something only two other conference schools can still do this season: make it five games into the Big Ten schedule without two losses.

Conference newcomer Maryland is the lone remaining Big Ten team unbeaten at 4-0 while Minnesota has started 3-1.

"We like that position a lot," senior center Bethany Doolittle said of the 4-1 start. "We have a lot of work to do but right now we are feeling good."

Plenty of work to do indeed.

Iowa won't be a third of the way through its Big Ten schedule until Sunday's road tilt with Michigan State.

You can't win a conference title in January, however as the Spartans can attest, you can lose one in that month.

A pick to finish in the top two in the Big Ten, the Spartans lost five-straight to open conference play and join defending regular season champion Penn State as the only teams still seeking a conference win.

"Michigan State is interesting," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "They are playing really pretty good basketball and then all of a sudden the Big Ten hit."

The surprising struggles of Michigan State is perhaps the perfect story to what has been a wild start to the Big Ten season.

It also best illustrates why, while not perfect, Iowa's 4-1 start is a large step for the Hawkeyes in contending for a regular season Big Ten title.

Six Big Ten teams have two league losses, including nationally ranked Nebraska and Rutgers.

Illinois has already matched its Big Ten win total from a year ago and Northwestern at 3-2 in league play is poised to surpass its five conference wins from a season ago before February.

Iowa's lone conference loss this season came at Illinois.

"You can't have a day off like we did at Illinois," Logic said of the Big Ten balance. "We just have to play our game now and try to limit the amount of possession let alone games like Illinois and just try to win out."

No. 8 Maryland (13-2, 4-0), a final four team from a season ago looks like the Big Ten bully early.

The Terrapins lead the league in scoring at nearly 84 points per game and are winning by an average of nearly 25 points per game.

Maryland's four Big Ten wins have come by an average of 16.2 points, but it needed a late rally to escape 77-73 against Minnesota.

"There are going to be upsets," Logic said. "It is just any persons' game any single day."

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or