The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for all of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we start with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Check out their full schedule here.
Where we left off: Iowa fans would probably rather forget about last season’s non-conference schedule, as the Hawkeyes were blown out by Clemson, Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Campbell. Yes, Campbell. This year, Iowa is a sleeper to make some noise in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament, but the Hawkeyes must avoid last year’s struggles in the non-conference season in order to have a shot to dance in March.
Major tournaments: Iowa will go to the Cancun Challenge this year and face a relatively weak field compared to other preseason tournaments, drawing Western Kentucky in the first round and either DePaul or Wichita State in the second round. That’s not a terrible schedule — in fact, those are some of the better teams the Hawkeyes will face in the non-conference season. However, if Iowa wants to take the next step as a program, that’s a tournament it should win.
Toughest opponent: Northern Iowa will certainly be a formidable test for Iowa, especially at a neutral site in Des Moines, but Iowa State — which is coming off an NCAA Tournament berth — looks like the toughest team on the Hawkeyes’ non-conference schedule. Starters Chris Babb and Melvin Ejim return for the Cyclones, who also add Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious and Utah transfer Will Clyburn. Even without first round draft pick Royce White, Iowa State will likely be an NCAA Tournament team and could make some noise in the Big 12 race. This will be a home game for the Hawkeyes, but it will still be a tough test for Fran McCaffery’s squad, and it will be a major confidence booster if Iowa comes out with a win.