My how things have changed around Carver-Hawkeye arena in just two years of the Fran McCaffery era. They went to a postseason tournament for the first time, albeit the NIT, since 2006 last season and also posted their first winning record since that 2006 season.
They even swept the season series against Wisconsin, a feat their paid off (free tickets and pizza) student section celebrated by rushing the court, on their way to almost having a .500 record in conference play.
For the first time in awhile there are some actual expectations for a team that returns 5 of their top 6 scorers, but that silver lining hides the fact that the one player they must replace is do everything Matt Gatens who averaged 15.2 points per game as a senior. He accounted for nearly 20% of the teams scoring and with only two returning players that averaged double figures there will need to be a player or two that steps up in a major way.
What could help this team is a hell of a recruiting class, one ranked in the Top 30 by most pundits, along with what was a pretty good bench last season.
So, how do we see this season going for a fan base that's desperate to enter the NCAA tournament again and fill up Carver-Hawkeye arena for a change? Let's dive into the full preview!
Before we do though, don't forget to check out our full Indiana preview from yesterday.
2011-12 Record: 18-17 (8-10)
Postseason: NIT 2nd round
Head Coach: Fran McCaffery (3rd year at Iowa, 29-37 - 17th season overall, 280-214)
Returning Starters (games started last season): 4
Melsahn Basabe (21), Roy Devyn Marble (27), Eric May (21), Zach McCabe (30)
- Anthony Clemmons: 6-1, 190lbs., Guard (Freshman, Lansing, MI/ Sexton HS)
- Mike Gesell: 6-1, 180lbs., Guard (Freshman, South Sioux City, NE/ South Sioux City HS)
- Patrick Ingram: 6-2, 190lbs., Guard (Freshman, Indianapolis, IN/ North Central HS)
- Kyle Meyer: 6-10, 220lbs., Forward (Freshman, Alpharetta, GA/ Northveiw HS)
- Adam Woodbury, 7-1, 230lbs., Center (Freshman, Sioux City, IA/ East HS)
Check out the full roster here.
Projected Starting Lineup:
G - Mike Gesell (Fr.)
G/F - Roy Devyn Marble (Jr.)
F - Melsahn Basabe (Jr.)
F - Zach McCabe (Jr.)
C - Adam Woodbury (Fr.)
This is by far and away the biggest strength of this team. They return four players that started 14 or more games up front last year in Melsahn Basabe (Jr.), Eric May (Sr.), Zach McCabe (Jr.), and Aaron White (So.) and they add to that with a huge center prospect in the 7'1" Adam Woodbury from Sioux City, IA.
Iowa is faced with a great problem to have in that they have 5 guys in the frontcourt that are legitimate starters, unfortunately two of them will have to start on the bench and with Woodbury looking good in summer and fall workouts it's clear he's going to start as will Basabe, but the battle for the 3rd spot could well come down to Aaron White and Zach McCabe.
White is one of just two players returning as a double digit scorer and he did it as a freshman. White also saw the 2nd most minutes per game of any returning player and the most of anyone on the front line, so it will be very interesting how they approach the rotation up front. Could it be that White is just a better player coming off the bench and not as a starter?
We do know that he'll be asked to play a little more of the three spot, coming directly from head coach Fran McCaffery's media day press conference, and that may actually give him an edge over McCabe.
However, the biggest area of concern up front has to be rebounding, an area they struggled in last season and that's where Woodbury can hopefully help the most in. All indications are that he's become a beast on the inside against his teammates in practices so far and that's a good sign for the frosh. It still has to be seen that he can handle the pounding that big men take in the Big Ten on a consistent basis.
In fact, the key word for this group as a whole is consistency. If they can find it on the defensive end this team could be a dangerous one in the league, but if not they will struggle with the same thing they did a year ago, when they only had a + 0.5 scoring margin after giving up 72.5 points per game to their opponents. They also need it more on the offensive end from the frontcourt as the leading returning FG% players are Basabe and White at 52.4% and 50.4% respectively. Those are o.k. numbers, but they've got to be better to help make up for what they will lose in the backcourt thanks to Gatens graduation.
No matter what this is the unit that will keep any success or failure this team sees this year.
This season is a year of transition in the backcourt as gone is Matt Gatens and with it his 15.2 points per game and his ability to shoot the deep ball. He led the team shooting 41% from behind the 3pt arc and unfortunately that's a huge loss as no one else on the team was even a marginal threat from behind the arc last year.
Someone has to step up as the outside scoring threat this season and that duty will likely fall on Roy Devyn Marble, the son of former Hawkeye great Roy Marble, who shot 39% from the 3pt line last year. That was alright because he was the 2nd option, but in 2012-13 he's the go to man on the perimeter and the junior needs to step it up. If Marble can't get it done from downtown look for senior Eric May to be the guy they turn to. He shot 34.1% on just 14 of 41 from deep, but those numbers should increase no matter what in terms of attempts and makes with Gatens gone.
As for the man handling the ball? Those duties will fall on one of the biggest prospects this team has had in the backcourt in some time, freshman Mike Gesell. He was a consensus Top 100 recruit and a two time Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year in high school. Head coach Fran McCaffery has already indicated he'll see extensive time as the starting point guard and that he's clearly got his head in the right area.
Still, he is a freshman and it's a massive step up from Nebraska high school basketball to playing against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin and he'll need to prove he can take care of the ball as these three teams will really kill you with pressure if you can't handle the ball well.
What about the rest of the rotation? Expect a vast improvement from sophomore shooting guard Josh Oglesby and look for another frosh in Anthony Clemmons to possibly be the option to spell Gesell off the bench at the point.
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 2
Really Iowa, really? It's not good when one of your top games on your non-conference schedule is against a team from the MAC and you only test yourself twice on the road in the non-conference portion of the season. Worse yet is that road games are only road games because you had to do it in the in-state agreement you have with UNI and play in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The only saving grace is a game against a very talented Iowa State team otherwise this could well be one of the weakest schedules I have ever seen from a Big Ten team not named Penn State.
Swing Games (non-conf.): vs. Iowa State, @UNI, vs. Central Michigan
- As I was saying before, this is exactly how weak the schedule is. Even their other road game against Va Tech can't be considered a test because of the mess that program is in. It's bad when two of these "swing games" should be easy wins for this team, but if they someone lose to either UNI or CMU this team will prove they aren't even close to being back.
Swing Games (conf.): vs. Purdue, @ Northwestern, @ Minnesota
- These three games are must haves during the conference portion of the schedule. If they don't win one of the two road games against Northwestern or Minnesota it's a sure bet they can kiss their post season hopes goodbye, at least for the NCAA tournament.
Record: 19-12 (8-10)
Big Ten Place: 7th
- Unfortunately for Hawkeye fans it could be another season before the NCAA comes a calling to their team, but if this league does show it's strength this very well could be a bubble team as well. Either way they take advantage of a very weak non-conference schedule in improving their overall stature but it could be that very same schedule that kills their hopes of the NCAA tournament as well. This team will show improvement, but just not enough in my opinion.
Beer Pairing: Boulevard Wheat
This is a beer that's vastly underrated and not known throughout the country but just like this team in 2012-13 it shouldn't be slept on. Both this beer and the team are incredibly popular in the state of Iowa and like the team this season they could be a little "unfiltered" and not perfect at times. To some that's what makes the beer great and to some fans that can make this team fun to watch. Fun in the way of never knowing quite what you're going to see. In the end both could leave a good taste in the mouths of their drinkers and fans.
Don't forget to check us out on Twitter for all the Hawkeye basketball news and analysis from a macro perspective by following us @DelanysDozen.