IOWA CITY - Iowa's NCAA tournament hopes are fading and so is coach Steve Alford's patience.
March for the Hawkeyes this season might be spelled N-I-T and some of the team's seniors might be spending more time on the b-e-n-c-h.
"I'm saying there'll be some drastic changes," Alford said. "This isn't working."
An 86-78 loss to Minnesota at home on Saturday left Iowa 15-10 and 4-7 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes need to go 4-1 the rest of the way just to finish .500 in the league and with three games on the road, that doesn't seem likely.
Iowa plays at last-place Penn State on Wednesday night but also has games at Wisconsin and Michigan State. Home games remain with Ohio State and Michigan.
Alford strongly indicated that some of the younger players would be seeing more action in those games.
"We've got to try and develop these young kids, these freshmen and sophomores," Alford said. "We've got to find somebody that's going to be able to step up with some leadership and develop that here late in the season and into next year."
Alford built this team around seniors Luke Recker and Reggie Evans, and neither is having an especially stellar year. Recker did score 25 points Saturday and Evans came up with 16 rebounds.
But Evans scored only five points on 1-for-6 shooting and was outplayed by Minnesota freshman Rick Rickert, who had 23 points. Evans took only one shot in the second half.
"Rick Rickert is as good as advertised," Alford said. "He went right after Reggie Evans and I don't think that matchup was close."
Evans had no explanation for his second-half shutdown. Asked about Rickert, he said the Gophers did a good job getting him the ball.
"Their coach made sure they got him the ball no matter what the circumstance," Evans said. "When it came down to crunch time, they wanted him to have it."
Iowa played well for stretches and led 45-36 at halftime. But the Gophers shot 65 percent in the second half and took control with a 20-2 run.
The Hawkeyes did manage to make a run and drew to 74-73 on Recker's 3-pointer with 3:29 remaining. Then they failed to score on their next five possessions and Minnesota made 12-of-17 free throws to wrap it up.
"All of a sudden it gets tight," Alford said, "and we get back to no passes or one pass because there's not one guy on the floor during the flow of the game who says, 'Hold on here, let's make four passes, let's move the ball around.' "
Evans said he felt he and Recker were trying to be leaders and were being blamed too much for Iowa's problems.
"But that's all part of it," he said. "So we've got to basically just accept it."