EVANSTON, Ill. — Who watches the Big Ten men’s basketball standings with two-thirds of the season remaining?
The players. Iowa’s were fully aware their 96-73 triumph over Northwestern Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena lifted them into a tie with Michigan atop the Big Ten at 6-1. They like it.
“It’s huge,” said Iowa sophomore guard CJ Fredrick, who had 13 points Sunday. “We set goals before the season and (a league title) was one of the goals. We knew going into this game that a win would put us tied for first.
“We just went out and took care of business. We’ve just got to keep that same mindset going through.”
Joe Wieskamp had 16 points and three assists Sunday, then spoke about life at the top.
“We’ve been saying it all season long,” the junior forward said. “We want to win the Big Ten championship.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position right now, but there’s a lot of season left and a lot of tough games ahead. We’ve just got to keep locking in and focus on the next one at hand.”
Seven games aren’t 20, and everyone knows it. Two days earlier, Michigan was 6-0 and being described as the Big Ten’s best team by many. Then it lost 75-57 at Minnesota Saturday.
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“I don’t really pay much attention to the standings,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “We’re about one-third of the way through. We have too many really good teams coming up and there’s going to be some juggling of the schedule.
“At the end of the day, does it really matter who’s in first place in the middle of January? I don’t think it does.
“At the same time, they recognize it, they worked for it, they’ve earned it. That’s great. I don’t want to diminish it because any time I get the opportunity to praise my guys and compliment them for the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made to get here, I want to emphasize that.”
But first place now, McCaffery said, is “not something that I would address with them. I didn’t. I haven’t.
“Where we are in the standings, who’s where ... just get ready for Indiana (Thursday in Iowa City).”
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