If Iowa is going to bounce back from a disappointing loss at Wisconsin, it's going to have to do so without its head coach - and his caricatured likeness.
The Big Ten suspended Fran McCaffery for Thursday night's home game against Northwestern because of an outburst during a loss to the Badgers on Sunday, and "Fran McCaffery Bobblehead Night" will likely be rescheduled as assistant coach Kirk Speraw slides into the leading chair against the Wildcats.
"I think it's important to point out that my passion and energy come from a good place," McCaffery said. "I want my players to play that way. We ask them to play that way, and I'm going to fight for my guys. That's what I'm going to do. That will not stop. But I think in that instance, without question, I lost my cool, and you can't do that."
McCaffery was tagged with back-to-back technical fouls and ejected with 12 minutes to play, and the Badgers hit all four ensuing free throws before going on to win 75-71.
No. 20 Iowa (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten) led 35-24 at the break, but Wisconsin rallied with 51 second-half points to remain unbeaten. Still, the Hawkeyes held the Badgers to 37.7 percent shooting, a mark Northwestern (7-8, 0-2) would prefer over its recent stretch.
After Sunday's 74-51 loss at Michigan, the Wildcats have been outscored by an average of 25.0 points in their first two Big Ten games. They've lost three straight overall and have struggled in their last four, shooting 35.2 percent and averaging 53.5 points.
"I saw a lot of progress from our first game to our second game," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "We've got to keep at it. Certainly, it doesn't get any easier playing at Iowa on Thursday, who's an outstanding team and is going to be really ready to play."
Aside from forward Drew Crawford (16.0 points per game), the Wildcats are struggling to find consistent scoring. JerShon Cobb (11.5) and Tre Demps (10.1) are their other two players scoring in double figures, but they've combined for just 20 in Big Ten play.
"Outside of Drew, guys are struggling to put it in the basket," Collins said. "We've got to find some more consistency with some other guys and take some of that off Drew's plate so he just doesn't get worn out every game."
That was also the case for Iowa against Wisconsin. Roy Devyn Marble (16.1 ppg) led all scorers with 27 points, but no other Hawkeyes player hit more than three field goals as they shot 39.1 percent as a team.
Iowa's losses have come at Wisconsin, at Iowa State and on a neutral floor against Villanova, all by five points or less. Those three teams are currently a combined 44-1.
In its 12 other games, Iowa has won by an average of 26.6, though McCaffery isn't lumping Northwestern in with those teams.
"It's a talented, experienced team," McCaffery told the school's official website. "It's a team that is going to challenge us in a lot of ways."
Iowa beat Northwestern three times last season, all by double figures, after losing the previous five meetings in the series.