IOWA CITY, Iowa – Three games aren’t enough to make or break a 20-game Big Ten schedule.
But three games is enough to change a team’s direction, like the Iowa men’s basketball team, for example.
The Hawkeyes are coming off an impressive 94-76 victory over Nebraska this past Friday at home and will now in a quick turnaround face Minnesota on Monday in Minneapolis.
If Iowa were to beat the Gophers, it would have gone from being 0-3 in league play and 8-6 overall to 3-3 and 11-6 in just nine days.
The Hawkeyes started their turnaround by defeating Rutgers 86-77 on Jan. 6 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for their first Big Ten win.
And now Iowa faces a vastly improved Minnesota squad under third-year head coach Ben Johnson.
The Gophers, with records of 12-4 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play, have already surpassed last season’s win totals when they finished 9-22 overall and 2-17.
Minnesota is coming off a 74-62 loss at Indiana on Friday, so Iowa has a chance to pull even with the Gophers in the league standings with a victory.
Iowa also has a chance to win three straight games in Minneapolis for the first time since 1954-56, and Fran McCaffery has a chance to win his 272nd game as the Iowa head coach, which would surpass Tom Davis for most wins in program history.
So, there is plenty riding on this one game besides being the next game on the schedule.
Iowa also started 0-3 in league play last season, but would go on to win its next four games, and seven of nine overall.
Iowa would go on to finish 11-9 in the conference last season, which was good enough to make the NCAA Tournament.
There is a big difference in being 3-3 or 2-4 in league play.
There is also something to be said for becoming Iowa’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach.
Fran McCaffery held a zoom conference on Sunday and talked about his respect and admiration for Tom Davis, who coached Iowa for 13 seasons from 1986 to 1999.
“Coach Davis is somebody that I’ve known for a long time,” Fran McCaffery said. “Always admired not only his coaching style and his success but more importantly, the kind of person he is. He’s always been incredibly humble. And he was so kind to me when I got here and when I got this job. We’ve remained friends. Just to be discussed in the same conversation with him is something that makes me incredibly proud.”
As for the Gophers, forward Dawson Garcia leads a group of five players in double figures, averaging16.5 points and a team-best 7.7 rebounds per game.
Point guard Elijah Hawkins averages 8.6 points, 7.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He also leads the Big Ten with 123 total assists.
Minnesota’s reserves lead the Big Ten in scoring off the bench, averaging 27.8 points per game. Six Gophers average between 16.5 and 8.6 points per game.
Iowa has seven players that average from 16.4 to 5.7 points per game, and six that scored in double figures in the win over Nebraska.
However, Iowa will be without senior forward Patrick McCaffery for tonight’s game because of an ankle injury.
Sophomore guard Josh Dix will likely replace him in the starting lineup.
Iowa (10-6, 2-3) vs. Minnesota (12-4, 3-2)
When: Monday, 5 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis, Williams Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network
Series record: Iowa leads, 107-101
Last meeting: Iowa won 71-57 in Iowa City and 68-56 in Minneapolis last season.