Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa men's basketball team tries to put recent past in the past

Hawkeyes leave cyberspace for the vastness of the United Center

Iowa guard Isaiah Moss (4) during a recent game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa guard Isaiah Moss (4) during a recent game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Come on, get happy!

While you’re at it, always look on the bright side of life.

If the Iowa men’s basketball team has to borrow philosophy from both the Partridge Family and Monty Python (Google them, kids), so be it. When you’re taking a four-game losing streak to the Big Ten tournament, you need to leave the gloom back in Iowa as you roll into Chicago’s United Center Thursday night for a fresh start.

“I’m excited,” Hawkeye freshman guard Joe Wieskamp said Tuesday. “The season’s long, but it’s a new season now. It’s my first opportunity to play in the postseason and I’m very excited.”

The mood on the team, said junior guard Jordan Bohannon, “is really positive, optimistic. Now it’s a clean slate. We did what we had to do in conference play. We got a 6-seed, got a bye.”

After dropping its last four games of the regular season, Iowa finished 10-10 in the Big Ten. Last November, would you have taken 10-10 in the league, 21-10 overall, and a near-certain NCAA Tournament bid? After last season’s 4-14 and 14-19. Duh.

It just doesn’t feel as fresh and sweet as when Iowa was 10-6 and 21-6, and its projected NCAA seed looked more like a 5 than a 9.

There’s been negativity in the air. Thus, the team agreed to stay off Twitter for the time being and pretty much leave social media to those who don’t have to play either Illinois or Northwestern Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at the United Center.

“Just focus on our team and not worry about distractions,” Bohannon said.

Junior guard Isaiah Moss says that won’t affect him, since he isn’t much of a tweeter. He’ll have his own distraction, but it’s the good kind. He’ll be playing in his hometown.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I’ve been to a lot of Bulls games as a kid,” Moss said. “My dad used to take me and my brother all the time.”

Moss played at the United Center once before, while in the eighth-grade.

“We were nice,” he said. “Really good.” But ...

“A lot of empty seats. We didn’t attract too much attention.”

This thing Thursday will be somewhat different, with a lot of eyeballs in the 20,917-seat facility focused on him.

“It means a lot to me, from Chicago,” Moss said.

“We’re in the Big Ten, we’re at a Big Ten school, it’s a blessing to be here just playing at those games. ... I just think even at Nebraska, Wisconsin, here at Carver, I look at it all the same.”

But this is the first and perhaps only time Chicago southsider Moss will play a college game in his city’s basketball epicenter.

“Of course it’s going to better going home playing in front of my family,” he said. “My nieces and nephews are going to be there. They don’t get to really come out here. They look up to me. So it will be fun playing in front of them.”

Moss’ favorite all-time Bull is Michael Jordan, though Jordan’s last game with the team was when Moss was 1 year old. His favorite Bull of those he got to see in person was Derrick Rose. Like Rose, Moss attended Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy High School. His favorite Simeon player, though, was current Washington Wizard Jabari Parker.

“He was different,” Moss said. “He was a killer, for real.”

Moss averaged 14 points in two games against Northwestern and had 21 in Iowa’s lone meeting with Illinois. If he’s a killer Thursday night against one of his home state’s teams, the Hawkeyes will play in the big arena again Friday evening. For real.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.