No. 9 Iowa is officially the hottest team in college hoops.
The Hawkeyes won their ninth straight game on Sunday, defeating No. 22 Purdue 83-71 to move to 7-0 in the Big Ten. That’s not the longest win streak in America. UAB, winners of 14 straight, has that honor following SMU’s loss earlier on Sunday. But when you throw in the fact that the Hawkeyes have beaten five top-30 teams during that run, it’s hard to argue that anyone is playing better than Fran McCaffery’s team at this juncture.
All-American candidate Jarrod Uthoff led the way again, scoring 22 points, including four early 3-pointers and this ridiculous move in the second half where he bodied Caleb Swanigan off his spot in the post defensively, contested his shot, grabbed a rebound, then went coast-to-coast for a slam while adding a nice little inside-out dribble to get past Swanigan on the other end.
#Uthoff #POY #BMOC #B1G #specialskillset pic.twitter.com/pAlMXpuR8u
— Mike Trues (@mjtrues) January 24, 2016
It’s that kind of diversification in his game that has him heavily on the radars of NBA scouts. He’s now a better player off the dribble, and his defensive ability has improved by leaps and bounds since last season.
And really, you could say that about the entire Hawkeye team.
Iowa came into this game as the 15th-best team in the country defensively according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and they did nothing in this one to harm that reputation. The Boilermakers only mustered 42 percent shooting from the field, and were only able to score at a .922 clip on a points-per-possession basis.
Particularly, the Hawkeyes did a great job in this one of limiting the production of Purdue’s two-headed 7-foot monster, A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. Despite giving up a little bit in the way of size, the Hawkeyes made the big men uncomfortable by both showing straight doubles in the paint and by digging down with guards and forcing the bigs to focus on handling the ball. It’s the attention to detail the focus on the little things that make this such an effective defensive group, easily McCaffery’s best since moving to Iowa City.
This win sets up a terrific matchup between Iowa and Maryland on Thursday in College Park. After sweeping two of the other contenders in Big Ten play already — Purdue and Michigan State — it’ll be fun to see the Hawkeyes can continue their run and extend this streak to 10. If they can get that one, the Hawkeyes will have eight top-50 wins, and that would be two more than any other team in the country currently has. The losses obviously don’t disappear, but Iowa is building one of the best resumes in all of college hoops.
This team is for real, folks. It is right in the middle of the mix for the national championship in this wide open year.