By John Bohnenkamp
The window to reschedule games this season was already built into the final weeks of the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball schedules, so Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Lisa Bluder knew what was coming.
Both of their teams have had schedule changes because of COVID-19 issues with other programs, and both face perhaps their biggest weeks of the season.
McCaffery’s men’s basketball team plays at No. 3 Michigan on Thursday and No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday. Bluder’s women’s team plays at No. 8 Maryland on Tuesday, at home against No. 12 Michigan on Thursday, and then at Wisconsin on Sunday.
“We’ve been talking about this all summer, as we started to finalize what the schedules were going to look like at the beginning of the season,” McCaffery said. “We left some time at the end, knowing somebody was going to be on pause, we’re going to have to squeeze some games in, we’re going to have to move games around. So that’s what we did.”
“It’s really hard to plan, but we’re going to make the most of it,” Bluder said.
It’s all about the moving parts, Bluder said. It’s about fitting in other teams besides the Hawkeyes.
“It’s not just us, and that’s what’s hard to understand sometimes,” she said.
The game against Maryland was originally scheduled for January 21, but Bluder asked for the game to be postponed because of concerns about safety related to the threats of violence during the Inauguration Day events in Washington, D.C.
Iowa’s original schedule for this week had a game on Sunday at Indiana, but that game has been moved to March 3.
The men’s team had to work in a rescheduling of an earlier postponement of a game against Nebraska. That game has been scheduled for March 4, which would have been the day the Hawkeyes played at Michigan. The game with the Wolverines was moved to Thursday.
“You just get the call — ‘Hey, you’re going to play Michigan on Thursday,’” McCaffery said. “OK. We were going to play Michigan anyway, so what difference does it make when we play them?
“Whether we play Michigan this week or next week, it doesn’t matter to us. They’re really good. They’re going to be good no matter when you play them.”
Bluder said the biggest pressure is on her staff, whether it is rescheduling travel arrangements or putting together scouting reports.
Bluder gave her team Sunday off.
“There’s no way I could manage their legs for three games in six days, plus two road games,” she said. “So there’s kind of a lot of travel as well.”
“Obviously you’re going to have to be smart with your body,” guard Caitlin Clark said. “But more than anything, it’s a great opportunity for us.”
The Hawkeyes are 12-6 overall, 8-6 in the Big Ten. They are 30th in the NCAA’s NET rankings, a formula used by the tournament selection committee, so getting a chance at quality wins this week is important to their postseason resumé.
The Iowa men, at 17-6 overall and 11-5 in the Big Ten, have a solid postseason resumé but are still in the chase for the conference title along with a double-bye in the conference tournament that goes to the top four finishers. The Hawkeyes, who are in fourth place, are two games behind first-place Michigan with four to play, and are just a half-game behind third-place Ohio State.
“This is the kind of basketball we signed up for,” guard Jordan Bohannon said. “We signed up to play at Iowa in these types of games, to change the program. And this is another way to push the needle forward. Play on national television against two really great teams this week.”
The schedule puzzle is just another obstacle in a season full of them.
“We’ve never lived through anything like this ever before,” Bluder said. “I think at the beginning of the season we knew we would be facing changes, we knew we had to adapt to them. We’ve tried to emphasize that to our team to be flexible. We have to adjust to things that are thrown at us. I think it’s good preparation for life for our players.”
“Nobody’s complaining about it, because we all agreed to it,” McCaffery said. “Let’s get the games in. If they have to be moved around, move them around.”
Photo: Iowa’s Luka Garza reaches for a rebound in Sunday’s game against Penn State. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)