Can I say “Embrace the Suck” on this website?
I guess I just did. It is, after all, military slang. It means something’s not easy, but just deal with it.
Let’s not look at this as beating a dead horse. It’s just basketball. We can handle it. So let’s embrace the … you know. Let’s confront the fact this is the worst collective men’s basketball season for state universities that Iowa has ever seen.
Since Northern Iowa joined a Division I conference in the 1982-83 season, nothing has been as bad as this season. At the moment, we have three last-place teams. Jeepers!
Iowa is tied with Rutgers for last in the Big Ten at 3-13, with Minnesota poised to join them Monday if it loses at Wisconsin. UNI is tied with Valparaiso for last in the Missouri Valley at 5-11, and Iowa State is alone at the Big 12’s bottom at 4-10.
Combined, that’s a 12-34 conference record for a winning percentage of .261. The worst total record the three teams have ever had in D-I conference play is 14-30 for .318 in 1990. They have a total of eight league games left, and must win six of them for a higher win percentage than .318.
It seems highly likely the season will be over for all three teams before Selection Sunday. No NIT, no CBI, no CIT. Bummer.
What makes this group meltdown all the stranger is it comes after five of the state’s six best seasons since 1983. The last time these three teams collectively lost more league games than they won was 2011.
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Last year, the Cyclones, Hawkeyes and Panthers were a combined 31-23 in league games. In 2016, they were 33-21. And in 2015, they were an all-time best 40-14.
Ah, 2015. Remember that? UNI went 16-2 and won the MVC tournament. Iowa State and Iowa were 12-6 in conference play, and the Cyclones won the Big 12 tourney. The Hawkeyes and Panthers each won a game in the NCAA tournament.
It’s been a pretty good decade, all in all. No, there hasn’t been an NCAA tourney Elite Eight appearance since Iowa State’s in 2000. No, there hasn’t been a Final Four appearance since Iowa’s in 1980. But for being competitive, the last several years haven’t been anything to complain about.
This is Iowa’s first losing conference season since 2012, Iowa State’s first since 2011, and UNI’s first since — get this — 2003.
Over the previous three seasons, UNI was 36-18 in league games. Iowa State and Iowa were 34-20. In tough basketball leagues.
Say it again. Good times.
So when you see Loyola about to win the Missouri Valley, don’t be jealous. This is the Ramblers’ first winning season in that conference after going 27-45 over their first four years there. They haven’t had a winning record in any league since 2007.
When you see Texas Tech tied for first place in the Big 12, don’t be green with envy toward the Red Raiders. They haven’t finished a season with a winning league mark since 2007, and were 6-12 or worse in eight of the last nine years.
And when you see Kansas tied for first in the Big 12 and Michigan State alone in front in the Big Ten … yeah, that’s kind of old and tiresome.
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Oh well. UNI is at Valparaiso Tuesday night, and Valpo is tied with the Panthers at the MVC bottom.
Iowa State hosts TCU Wednesday. The Horned Frogs have lost six of their last eight games.
Iowa is at Minnesota Wednesday. The Gophers took an eight-game losing streak to Wisconsin Monday, and lost 94-80 at Iowa on Jan. 30.
Things are looking up!
Oh, private school Drake is 10-6 in the MVC. It’s the program’s first winning Valley record since 2008. Is there room on the Bulldogs’ bandwagon for the whole state?