2011-12 ITH Season Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

  • 09/30/2011 8:58 am in

With the college basketball season inching closer, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next few weeks. Today, we continue our team previews with a look at the Iowa Hawkeyes.

A new era began last winter in Iowa City as Fran McCaffery was tasked with turning around a program run into the Big Ten cellar by Todd Lickliter.

As most pundits predicted, it was a tough debut season for McCaffery and the Hawkeyes: Iowa finished 11-20 overall and 4-14 in the conference.

But even in the midst of a major rebuilding overhaul, there were positive signs in year one of the McCaffery era. Iowa avoided finishing last in the league by beating Indiana twice and Michigan State and Purdue at home. Three of their conference losses were by just three points, including two in overtime. And guard Bryce Cartwright and big man Melsahn Basabe quietly put together stellar seasons.

Add it all up and the Hawkeyes could be a surprise in a league with plenty of question marks outside of the top three teams.

Iowa returns four of five starters, but will miss the departed Jarryd Cole, who ranked in the top 10 in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Basabe, who landed on the conference All-Freshman team, was also in the top 10 in both of the aforementioned categories. A quick glance at the comparables for his 2011-2012 season brings back a couple of first round NBA Draft picks in Derrick Favors and B.J. Mullens.

The 6-foot-1 Cartwright, who ranked second in the Big Ten in assist rate, will anchor the backcourt. Matt Gatens, who led the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game, also led the conference in free throw percentage (87.4). Other returnees in the backcourt include Eric May (7.8 ppg), Zach McCabe (5.8 ppg) and Devyn Marble (5.7). Newcomer Josh Oglesby, a Top 150 shooting guard, should also enter the rotation.

If the Hawkeyes are to take a significant leap forward this winter, an improved team offense will be pivotal. In conference games, Iowa ranked last in offensive efficiency, last in turnover percentage, tenth in 3-point shooting percentage and ninth in free throw percentage.

Bottom Line: McCaffery is moving the program in a positive direction both on the court and in recruiting. His 2012 class already includes Adam Woodbury, a 7-footer from Sioux City that chose Iowa over North Carolina earlier this month, and Mike Gessell, a top 75 point guard. The Hawkeyes will still take their lumps against the league’s top teams, but should be improved across the board.

Quotable: “Everybody talks about building a program, where we’re going to be in three to five years… I want to be good this year.” – McCaffery after a team-building exercise called “The Program” earlier this month.

Previously: Nebraska, MinnesotaPenn State

Filed to:

  • They won’t beat us twice this year.

  • Anonymous

    I think McCaffrey is a good coach. Particularly given how we have fared against them the last two years, I think that the two games will tell us a lot about our team this season, and probably more than the games against Ohio State on one hand and Penn State on the other. We need to take care of business in the Hall. We can win in Iowa City, but absolutely need to be more competitive there than we were last year.

  • Kfdchev

    Don’t mind them building a program…..just sick of them doing it at our expense. We can’t expect to contend with Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin if we keep getting beat by Iowa. Absolutely no reason for us to get our butts kicked by Iowa on the road, not to mention allowing them to win in Assembly Hall.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    I can’t explain it, but they certainly seem to have our number. They’ll be better than last year, but so should we — if we have any shot at the tourney, we have to beat them every chance we have.

  • MillaRed

    I will never forget when Coach said, “It’s Indiana.”

    Well, “It’s Iowa.” And it’s time to get back to normal by shellacking them twice a year.

  • So_Cal_Hoosier

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Whether they make it known to the public or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of players have this game circled on the calendar already.

  • base

    Iowa beat us twice last year  because they out hustled and muscled us. They were a quicker team at virually every position and they pushed us around because we weren’t physically strong enough or we didn’t have the “street fighting” or hustle they brought.
    I’m sure it’s been said before on this forum, that are year is entirely dependent on how well are upper classmen play. I sense Coach Crean is going to be tougher on some of these kids in order to develop a white hot desire to play hard and smart.

  • another litmus test – need these 2 wins…a must to keep moving fwd.

  • base

    Edit. wow, our instead of “are”

  • CreamandCrimson

    I know we all want to beat Iowa twice this season and quite a few of us really think we “have” to beat Iowa to have a chance at the tourney.  While I won’t entirely disagree with this premise, I think we need to pay a bit more attention to Iowa.  The Hawkeyes return 4 of 5 starters including a solid backcourt and a rebounding beast in Basabe.   They beat us twice last season and there is no reason to believe they won’t be better this season. 

    I think we absolutely need to beat them at home and it is a winnable road game.  But, taking it for granted that we should win in Carver Hawkeye Arena is a bit much.  We will definitely have the opportunity to take two from them this year but I don’t think it’s anything we can absolutely expect.  This is a rising program with a very good coach (look at Siena without him) and their fans support them when they are winning.  A road game there won’t be a walk in the park no matter how good we are in the near future.

  • Anonymous

    I think they’ll miss Cole more than most realize.  He was the type of bulldog who’s impact doesn’t really show up in the box score.  They can’t replace him and it could impact Basabe. 

    Sometimes a specific team is just a bad match for an opponent for some very specific reasons.  We’ve been like that for Minnesota, Iowa’s been that for us.  I think Cole personified our problem with Iowa the past two years: they played physical to make up for a lack of skill and athleticism.  The teams IU matched up well with last 2 year weren’t physical teams:  Illinois was soft, Mbakwe and Hoffarber were the only tough buys on Minnesota (Sampson certainly doesn’t like getting hit). 

    I personally think Cartwright is overrated.  He’s a bit like Korie Lucious was at Michigan State:  good passer but doesn’t take care of the ball and can’t shoot.  He had a 102 turnovers last year (for comparison Verdell had 83), he’ll take them out of games sometimes. 

  • Bryan

    Simply put, if we have any plans on doing anything this year, we have to stop losing to these guys.