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Iowa makes its biggest statement in years with huge win at Ohio State

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Fran McCaffery returned from his suspension and got perhaps the biggest W of his Iowa career. (USATSI)
Fran McCaffery returned from his suspension and got perhaps the biggest W of his Iowa career. (USATSI)

Three days removed from a one-game suspension that resulted from a tirade against an official, Fran McCaffery coached his team to one of the biggest wins of his career.

Iowa biggest win of the season came Sunday afternoon at No. 3 Ohio State, an 84-74 win that was as definitive as it was impressive. Folks, Iowa's "legit," as they say, and here's the proof. Now a 14-3 team in one of -- if not the -- best leagues, here are the Hawkeyes' losses this year: by five, in overtime, to one-loss Villanova; by three at undefeated Iowa State; by four at undefeated Wisconsin.

Looking at this team through that lens, couldn't you say Iowa's a top-10 team? Coming on the heels of what McCaffery's team just did to the Buckeyes, you absolutely could. The Hawkeyes entered the day as top-20 team in offense and defensive efficiency, essentially. They own wins over Xavier and Notre Dame. In the past half-decade, the kind of win that came about today never materialized. Iowa fans must be saying, "Thank you. Finally." This kind of season has been a long time coming for the Hawkeyes, who are showing that the Big Ten just might be the best league in the nation yet again.

Who are you taking: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State or Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor? The Big Ten and Big 12 have compelling arguments against each other.

Devyn Marble -- the team's best player -- led the Hawkeyes with 22 on Sunday. The Hawkeyes only had 10 turnovers, was more impressive in the paint and at no point showed any signs of being rattled in one of the tougher venues to play at in the Big Ten. The past two seasons have seen this program take big strides under McCaffery. When the Hawkeyes have their name announced on Selection Sunday two months from now, the win against OSU will be one of those memories that stands out. It's winning in the tough spot, without a doubt, that helps a program move forward and become among the best in its league and across the country.

So credit to Iowa for remaining among the best teams in the country that most people don't know about. That's about to change, given this victory and the impending charge the Big Ten's best are going to make as we start stacking up resumes with other programs across the nation.

As for the Buckeyes, their star, Aaron Craft, six points and six turnovers -- and fouled out. This was highlight, groan if you must: a hustle play.

It was an unusually bad game for a player that's been one of the best in the nation in his four years. LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes with 22, but his performance helped show that he being reliable with the ball won't help OSU be one of the best. It starts and ends with Craft. Against top 25-levels teams, I'm not sure OSU has any chance if Craft fouls out, scores in single digits and has six turnovers.

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