Coming into today’s game against Maryland, Iowa had bounced back from a disappointing loss to Minnesota with wins over Northwestern and No. 15 Rutgers. The Hawkeyes have appeared to find the answer on defense and the offense is rolling.

At the start of the game, Iowa seemed a little lost on defense. Down 10 early, Coach Fran lost his mind on the sideline. After two timeouts, Iowa roared back with a 10-0 run during which they held Maryland scoreless for almost five minutes. The Hawks dominated the rest of the game behind good ball movement and solid defense to win comfortably 89-67. Luka Garza was his usual dominant self racking up 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. Jordan Bohannon added 18, Patrick McCaffery had 10 and Keegan Murray 12 to put five players in double digits on the night. Connor McCaffery made his presence felt with 10 assists and five rebounds to go with his six points. It was a commanding performance that solidified Iowa’s place in the top-10 and as a contender for the Big Ten title.

Looking at the season so far, Iowa is 10-2 and looking very dominant. Currently, they own the third spot in the Big Ten behind Michigan and Illinois. Iowa has yet to face either team ahead of them and these look to be the biggest matchups going forward. There are no easy games in this conference as out of 15 remaining games for Iowa eight are against ranked opponents. I really like Iowa’s chances to finish the conference run with only four losses or less despite the tough schedule. The defense has lacked consistency, but overall has been doing enough to allow the offense chances to win.

The biggest strength of this stacked Iowa team is the depth off the bench. Garza is obviously the top dog, but behind him depends on the night. Coach Fran has displayed an amazing knack for finding the hot hand in each game and rotating minutes to take advantage of matchups. On any given night, you don’t know if JoBo, either McCaffery, Murray, Nunce or Weiskamp is going to be the one to produce. It’s a great next man up mentality and makes it hard for defenses to prepare for Iowa. The one weakness that may hurt Iowa is the defense. Despite strong showings against both Rutgers and Maryland, the defense has not been consistent and gives up too many easy buckets.

If Iowa can tighten up the transition defense and take away the easy buckets, they can walk to a Big Ten title and a deep tournament run. If they can’t, it’s still possible but will be a much tougher road. Illinois on Jan. 29 is looming large on the calendar and will tell us a lot about this team and how deep Iowa can go this year. GO HAWKS!!!



Garrett Schreur is a Contributor for Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on on Twitter @Garrettfromiowa