Everyone was on the Iowa bandwagon back in mid-January. The Hawkeyes were 15-3 and coming off a double-digit road win at Ohio State and a blowout victory over Minnesota. And then Fran McCaffery's crew lost three of five -- and Iowa was no longer the flavor of the week in the Big Ten.
That belonged to Michigan and its 8-0 conference start.
Well, Iowa took it back in a major way on Saturday, absolutely destroying Michigan in an 85-67 victory.
Roy Devyn Marble was the catalyst for Iowa in the first half, knocking down six 3-pointers and scoring 22 points in the opening 20 minutes. He finished with 26 points to lead the way for the Hawkeyes. Mike Gesell had 10 points and eight assists, and also did a solid job guarding Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas struggled for the most part on Saturday, scoring 10 points -- but he had just four points while the game was still relatively in the balance. Glenn Robinson III pulled another disappearing act in a big game, scoring the game's first two points and then going scoreless the rest of the game.
Iowa moves to 7-4 in the Big Ten, and while the Hawkeyes are still three games behind Michigan State in the loss column in the standings, this was a huge statement for them. This is the best win of the season for the Hawkeyes, and not just because of the margin of victory. They had lost two straight home games, but this one puts the spotlight back on Iowa. The Hawkeyes have the depth and versatility to beat anyone in the country, and Marble is one of the toughest matchups in the country. And when they shoot nearly 60 percent from 3-point range, they're going to be nearly impossible to beat.
As for Michigan, the Wolverines have now dropped two of three since starting 8-0 in the league. Iowa played terrific basketball on the offensive end of the floor, but it was the lack of determination and effort from Michigan that was most concerning. The transition defense was terrible, and at one point in the second half, only three players crossed the half-court line. Without Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin combining for 41 points, Michigan would have lost by 30. Iowa came out of the gates with a bang, and Michigan just had no response.
The Hawkeyes have proven throughout the season they can hang with some of the best teams in the country. Eight points was their biggest margin of defeat, but it wasn't a stretch to say they had lost to their six toughest opponents this year. They needed to show they could do more than just stay in games against top-quality teams -- they needed a performance like Saturday. And they got it.
Michigan State is still the likely Big Ten favorite, but Iowa's marquee win on Saturday proves the Spartans could have company deep into the NCAA tournament.