Just when you thought it was safe for the Iowa men's basketball team to come out of the water ...
The first 5-game patch of Iowa's Big Ten schedule was what you would call difficult. Four of the game were either against ranked teams - Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State or the team that had won at Indiana and was the league's outright leader, Wisconsin.
After an 0-3 start, Iowa won at Northwestern and beat Wisconsin at home. Out of the woods? Uh, no.
Sunday, Iowa is at Purdue. At 10-8, it isn't one of the best Boilermaker teams of the last few years. But Purdue is 3-2 in league play, has played well in its last three games, and figures to be no pushover at home. The Hawkeyes haven't won at West Lafayette since 2006. They haven't won a lot of conference road games, period, since 2006.
Then, in a genuine breather, Iowa hosts the worst team in the conference, Penn State.
Before going on the road for two more games, against ninth-ranked Minnesota and Wisconsin.
What's your best-case scenario for the 5-game stretch that begins today? OK, five wins. Let me re-ask that. What's your best realistic 5-game scenario?
If it's any consolation, the final eight games don't compare in toughness to these first two five-game stretches. There's a home game against Minnesota and a trip to Indiana, but the other six contests are against unranked teams, and five of the eight games will be at home.