Column: Many could tell Iowa Top Ten tenures can be tenuous

The road to March is littered with defeats to high-ranked teams

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You know the scene on “Seinfeld” when Jerry Seinfeld had a reservation for a rental car, but the agency didn’t have a car available when he showed up to get it.

“You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation” an irritated Seinfeld said to the clerk. “And that’s really the most important part of the reservation.”

A lot of teams know how to get into college basketball’s Top Ten. They just don’t know to stay there.

Just two weeks ago in the USA TODAY coaches’ poll, Ohio State was third, Wisconsin fourth, Iowa State seventh, Baylor ninth and Villanova 10th.

Those five teams have lost a combined 14 times since that poll was issued on Jan. 6. Ohio State has lost its last four games, Iowa State its last three, Wisconsin its last two, Baylor four of its last five. Villanova got buried at home by Creighton Monday, 96-68.

Those are all still good teams. But conference play began for real after New Year’s. You play half of your games on the road, and you play a lot of really good teams in a schedule you didn’t create for yourself. The road to March has plenty of potholes for everybody.

Iowa was No. 23 just two weeks back. Now it’s No. 10, in the Top Ten for the first time in 12 years. It showed it knew how to get in the Top Ten. Does it know how to stay there?

That question will get an answer Wednesday night when the Hawkeyes play at Michigan. The most-impressive team in Big Ten play so far has been the Wolverines.

Their 4-0 start in the league was pooh-poohed. Road wins over Minnesota and Nebraska, home victories over Northwestern and Penn State.

But those road wins are looking a lot better lately. Ohio State couldn’t get the job done at Nebraska Monday night, and any win at Minnesota is a good one.

Plus, the Wolverines scored the league’s Win of the Year so far when they got to 5-0 with their 77-70 triumph at Wisconsin last Saturday. Bo Ryan’s Badgers teams are 93-12 in Big Ten games at the Kohl Center.

So here comes Iowa, a newly minted Top Ten team, going into to Ann Arbor to play a fellow flying-high team, one with six players in its rotation who played in last year’s national-championship game.

If the Hawkeyes fall, it won’t be anything resembling a crippling loss. Their Big Ten season will be at only the one-third pole, they’ll be 4-2, and they still wouldn’t have been defeated at home like Wisconsin has.

They still wouldn’t have suffered a loss to a second-division conference team, like Ohio State did at Nebraska and Indiana did at home against Northwestern.

Win at Crisler Center, though, and the words “Big Ten Championship Contender” get stamped in front of the word “Iowa.” The Top Ten becomes the Hawkeyes’ residence for a while instead of overnight lodging.

It’s a big game. We’ll probably be saying that a lot this winter.


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