Big Ten M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on December 14th, 2012

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t scared to use his five highly-touted freshmen this year, and he solidified that this week when he said he would stick with a nine-man rotation, including all five of those rookies. Freshmen Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III will continue to start alongside Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan, but Caris LeVert, Mitch McGary, Spike Albrecht and Jon Horford will all see significant minutes, as well. The Wolverines have one of the deepest teams in the league, and with the freshmen living up to the hype so far, they have the potential to put a dangerous lineup on the court for the entire game.
  2. With so many new faces, Northwestern has been fairly inconsistent en route to a 7-3 start. The Wildcats won at Baylor, but have home losses to Maryland, Illinois-Chicago and Butler, with Texas State and Stanford coming to Evanston next week. Northwestern has spent the last four years on the NCAA Tournament bubble and fans are becoming restless about the team’s chances this year. CBS Chicago’s Dave Wischnowsky wonders how much more “close but no cigar” NU will accept, and whether coach Bill Carmody will be shown the door if things don’t turn around this season.
  3. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has been hitting the recruiting circuit hard recently, looking at top recruits Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Tyus Jones, among others, but the Spartans’ head coach isn’t a fan of such road trips. Izzo would like the NCAA to shorten the length of time in which coaches are able to evaluate recruits in order to allow coaches more time with their families. Coaches have very little time off from September to March, and a change in the rules would also allow them more time to spend with their teams during the season. Izzo admits that his words go “on deaf ears,” but he thinks teams could get the same players even if the rules were changed.
  4. Iowa has three freshmen in its starting lineup this year, which means that some veterans have had to embrace bench roles. Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, in particular, have given up playing time for the newcomers, but they’re OK with it if it helps the team. Coach Fran McCaffery is impressed with how his upperclassmen have bought into the program and accepted their new roles this season, even if it means they won’t be in the starting lineup. It’s not all bad for McCabe and Basabe, though, as both see minutes comparable to what the starters see. As long as they’re winning, the Hawkeye players don’t really care how it happens, even if that means sitting on the bench to start the game.
  5. It’s mid-December, which means it’s cupcake season in college basketball. Ohio State picked up a routine 85-45 cupcake victory over Savannah State this week, which will put another tally in the win column for the Buckeyes, but Rob Oller wonders if the game was really that beneficial. It’s a way for players — especially role players — to gain confidence, but there isn’t much good that it does for the starters. Since it’s difficult for players to get up for this kind of game, coach Thad Matta was forced to exaggerate what Savannah State brings to the table, all adding up to a yawner. But if this kind of game can inspire confidence in the players, that, says Oller, is really all that’s important.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on December 6th, 2012

  1. Michigan State doesn’t have any commitments yet for the class of 2013 and only has one — three-star guard Drake Harris — for the class of 2014, but Tom Izzo still has a chance to pull in some very impressive classes in both years. MSU is still after top recruit Jabari Parker in 2013, but the 2014 class is expected to be much bigger (and presumably, better). This week, Izzo was in Chicago to see five-star center Jahlil Okafor and Apple Valley, Minnesota, to see five-star point guard Tyus Jones. Parker and Jones have both visited East Lansing and MSU is in their top five and top eight schools, respectively. If Izzo can snag even one of those three, he’ll have a star in the making, and he has MSU very well in the mix for each of these players.
  2. Illinois is 9-0 and went on a surprising run to win the Maui Invitational, but the Illini still have a lot to work on if they want to keep up their hot start. John Groce’s team nearly lost to Gardner-Webb and Hawaii and struggled again with Western Carolina this week. It might be too early to judge these Illini, who Loren Tate of IlliniHQ reminds us started last year with a 10-0 record. Illinois’ shooting has been erratic and it must be more consistent for the Illini to make a big run, but we’ll find out what this team is made of soon enough, with games against Gonzaga and Missouri coming up. This is a crucial point in the season, with some tough non-conference games remaining and a very difficult Big Ten slate coming up. Now is the time for the Illini to prove this team is actually different than last year’s group that collapsed down the stretch.
  3. Since it’s still only December, rankings are relatively meaningless right now. However, a debate has been raging about whether Indiana or Duke deserves to be No. 1. Of course, this isn’t college football; it’s doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a very interesting question. Do the Hoosiers deserve to stay at the top of the polls for not yet faltering from its preseason perch, or should the Blue Devils pass them after what can only be described as a remarkable non-conference run? Since we don’t even have a chance of seeing this match-up until March (or, more likely, April), Hoosier State of Mind gave its opinion on which team has the edge. Obviously, HSOM is an Indiana blog, but it’s a very interesting breakdown on which team matches up better. Will IU fall because of the Big Ten’s depth? Can Duke continue to be successful with such a short rotation? Which frontcourt would ultimately prevail? A potential meeting is still four months away, so why not have some fun with the speculation?
  4. Football has been a sore topic for Nebraskans this week, but for the first time in awhile, Huskers fans can actually turn to some basketball for relief. First-year coach Tim Miles has Nebraska off to its best start since the 2008-09 season and can now boast back-to-back wins against Wake Forest and USC. Fans have taken notice as Miles tries to create some momentum for the program heading into next year’s unveiling of a new 16,000-seat arena. It’s tough to imagine this team, which has just nine scholarship players, doing much damage in the Big Ten, but we’ll get a good barometer of where the Huskers stand when they play Creighton, without question the flagship basketball program in the state.
  5. Coming into the season, freshman Mike Gesell was supposed to be Iowa’s point guard of the future. However, just a month into this year, another freshman, Anthony Clemmons, has taken over that spot, pushing Gesell to the shooting guard position. Some Iowa players have noted that Clemmons is a good defender, but his command of the offense has been impressive in the two games he has started. He was particularly impressive in the Hawkeyes’ recent win over South Dakota, and while he only scored four points, he also had eight assists and zero turnovers. Iowa now has the flexibility to start three players at the point — Clemmons, Gesell and junior Devyn Marble — and all three have seen time there so far. The Hawkeyes already had tremendous depth up and down the roster, so adding Clemmons to the point guard rotation gives coach Fran McCaffery even more options.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on November 29th, 2012

  1. Defense seemed optional for last year’s Iowa Hawkeyes squad, but this year, coach Fran McCaffery and his team claimed things would be different. A week ago, Iowa staged a comeback against Gardner-Webb that was led primarily by defense, and the Hawkeyes had yet to give up more than 75 points. That was before Tuesday, when Iowa gave up 95 points in a loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to Virginia Tech. It looked like last year’s Iowa team all over again, but McCaffery claimed that his team simply didn’t follow the game plan. The game plan certainly needs to be defense, and lots more of it, if Iowa wants to go dancing in March. With big games against in-state rivals Iowa State and Northern Iowa coming in December, we’ll find out soon if Tuesday’s game was a fluke or a possible warning sign that not enough has improved on the defensive end.
  2. Teams often underachieve following a coaching change, but Illinois has exceeded expectations this year under first-year coach John Groce. The Illini are undefeated and ranked No. 22 in the latest poll, and a big reason for that is how well the current players have bought in. That’s especially true of seniors Brandon Paul and Tyler Griffey, who have both improved their offensive outputs this season. Despite being picked ninth in the Big Ten during the preseason, enough unexpected players have stepped up for Illinois to certainly make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Michigan has been a guard-oriented team for a long time, and that’s no different this year, as Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are the Wolverines’ two leaders. However, coach John Beilein says that this team has a different feel to it — it can also play with anyone in the post. Finally, in addition to good outside shooting, the Wolverines can compete inside and have solid athleticism down low too. Freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are leading the way for UM’s frontcourt, and with that increased inside presence, Beilein’s offensive system has been able to change for the better. That all adds up to a No. 3 national ranking and a marquee ACC/Big Ten Challenge win over NC State.
  4. Nebraska figures to have some growing pains this year under new coach Tim Miles, but the Cornhuskers got a big win on Tuesday by defeating Wake Forest 79-63 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It was also a win for the record book, writes Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World Herald. The 16-point win was the Huskers’ largest margin of victory in a true road game in nine years, and Miles became the first Nebraska coach to win his first road game since Paul Schlisser in the 1919-20 season. It was also just the Huskers’ sixth true road win in the last four seasons. It’s too early to call this a turnaround in Lincoln, but there are some bright spots for a team that was picked to finish last in the Big Ten.
  5. Minnesota finished up a long road trip with a win over Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and the Gophers proved why they’re considered a sleeper in the conference this year. In fact, they showed exactly how they need to play, writes Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Minnesota put together a clean and balanced offensive game, getting help from both its frontcourt and the backcourt. They got up early on Florida State and put the game out of reach fairly quickly. Defensively, the Gophers pressured the Seminoles and forced them into 14 turnovers. If Tubby Smith’s team plays like that all year, Minnesota will be very dangerous — and, of course, it will help if forward Rodney Williams continues to do things like this.
Share this story

Observations from Iowa’s Cancun Challenge Loss to Wichita State

Posted by KTrahan on November 22nd, 2012

Iowa suffered its first loss of the season on Wednesday, falling 75-63 to Wichita State in the finale of the Cancun Challenge. The Hawkeyes shot just 26.1 percent in the loss. Here are a few observations from the game.

Iowa Had Serious Struggles Shooting in Cancun Wednesday

Frontcourt play. Iowa made just four of 31 shots from inside the arc and could get absolutely nothing going inside. Even crazier, the Hawkeyes made seven threes and just one two-pointer in the first half, but still led 35-33 at halftime. However, Wichita State’s dominance in the frontcourt was too much for Iowa to overcome in the second half and the Hawkeyes didn’t have the physicality to keep up. Iowa has a lot of height, but it doesn’t have a seasoned big man to outmuscle other teams inside. Wichita State big man Ehimen Orukpe had five blocks and kept the Hawkeyes out of the paint. Iowa also didn’t get much out of center Adam Woodbury, who was clearly over-matched by Orukpe. The Hawkeyes must find a way to get points in the paint this year in the Big Ten.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Iowa Uses a Different Formula to Beat Gardner-Webb

Posted by KTrahan on November 19th, 2012

A nine-point win over Gardner-Webb is hardly something to be proud of, but the way Iowa took down the Runnin’ Bulldogs sure is cause for celebration in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes trailed 38-18 at halftime and were down by as many as 23 points at one point in the first half, before storming back to outscore Gardner-Webb 47-18 in the second half to escape with a 65-56 win on Saturday. Last year, this is a game Iowa surely would have lost. The Hawkeyes had a brutal non-conference season, which included a 16-point loss to Campbell. Iowa struggled with its defense last year, which hurt its resume and kept it off the NCAA Tournament bubble, but the Hawkeyes figure to be an NCAA Tournament contender this year, so this was the kind of game they couldn’t lose. They knew that, and they didn’t.

Fran McCaffery’s Group Appears to be Buying Into Defense This Year (credit: AP)

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Iowa’s win was how the Hawkeyes came back. We always knew they could score, but the question was whether they could stop anyone after last year’s abysmal defensive display. We got our answer over the weekend, as defense and the subsequent transition offense led Iowa’s comeback. “I think we buy into the defensive end a little bit more,” Iowa sophomore Aaron White said. “When you give up 18 points in the second half, that’s the difference. Last year we would have just tried to put 60 on them in the second half.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Iowa Hopes It Got a Steal in Signing Peter Jok

Posted by KTrahan on November 15th, 2012

Iowa is expecting junior guard Devyn Marble to shoulder the load this season, but Wednesday afternoon the Hawkeyes signed the guy they hope can replace him. Three-star small forward Peter Jok was the lone player to sign with the Hawkeyes on signing day, and will join Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff as one of two new Hawkeyes joining the team next season.

Peter Jok

Jok’s path to becoming a Hawkeye, which was described by Rick Brown in a terrific piece in the Des Moines Register, was anything but typical. He was born in Sudan, lost his father when he was three, and moved to Des Moines with his mother when he was nine. He was initially a soccer player, but eventually gave basketball a try. After all, Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng is his cousin and NBA legend Manute Bol is his uncle. Jok quickly rose to national prominence through the AAU ranks, specifically after playing against the Chicago schools, and ranked in the top 10 nationally as a high school freshman. However, a tear of his patella tendon dropped his recruiting stock, and he lost a step in his game. Now, he’s back to full speed, but he’s still flying under the radar, choosing Iowa over Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas State and Drake.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.31.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 31st, 2012

  1. Ohio State is ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP poll, so it’s no surprise that the Buckeyes are a popular draw this season. Student season tickets sold out in five minutes, which, under a new system, is even faster than they went last year. However, some students are apparently upset with how quickly the tickets were sold and the system under which they’re sold. One girl, who wasn’t planning on buying tickets anyway, was mad because, if she wanted tickets, she might not have been able to get them. Really. However, one student had a good point that OSU could look into expanding its student section considering the heavy demand for tickets. The OSU athletic department said it will take a look at what the actual student attendance is at games and could consider a change in the size of the student section in the coming years if it necessitates.
  2. Most people are ranking Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State as the Big Ten’s best teams, but as ESPN.com argues, don’t forget about Michigan State. Many years, this Spartans team would be considered one of the top teams in the conference, but not in a league this stacked. MSU certainly has the talent to compete with the best in the Big Ten, despite its loss of Draymond Green — Derrick Nix and Keith Appling will be the leaders of the team, while Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson will add talented experience. Just because MSU isn’t considered a favorite in the preseason polls doesn’t mean the Spartans are a step below the perceived front-runners. If everyone works well together — and that’s typical under Tom Izzo — expect another great year in East Lansing.
  3. As you’ve probably heard, there are a number of “secret scrimmages” happening this week in college basketball — you can get the full list here — and a lot of the games are actually better than many of the non-conference real games we’ll be seeing next month. North Carolina-Georgetown? Xavier-West Virginia? Sign me up! The only problem: We aren’t allowed to watch them. One such top match-up between two NCAA Tournament contenders is Iowa vs. Creighton. The two played on Sunday, and while coaches are strongly discouraged from talking about the stats or score of the game, it was likely a good tune-up for the challenges this year’s schedule will bring. By playing a top squad rather than a cupcake, the Hawkeyes got an early test without it counting against the record. That experience could be very valuable once the tougher non-conference games come around.
  4. Michigan’s Crisler Arena got a facelift this offseason, and wow, does it look nice. You can check out all of the photos the Wolverine athletic department posted here. The arena looks very sleek and modern, especially in the entranceway. The concessions and the team store also look very nice. However, this isn’t a completely new arena and the school is pushing to hold onto the memory of the arena before the renovation, including using some of the old court as part of the walls. You can also check out the construction that went into the renovation in that photo slideshow — it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.
  5. This is an old nugget, but Tim Miles turned into the star of Big Ten Media Day thanks to his social media presence. The Nebraska coach was even trending worldwide on Twitter, which has to be the first time anything relating to Nebraska basketball was ever that popular. In all seriousness, Miles’ social media abilities — he has over 30,000 Twitter followers — has been important for the Cornhuskers and will continue to be important for a program trying to gain relevancy in a competitive landscape. According to the article, Miles tweeted at halftime of an NCAA Tournament game last year, and as a follower of his, I’ve seen his tweets range from his experiences at Oklahoma City Thunder games to wishing “Tom Osbourne” (actually spelled “Osborne”) well in retirement. At Big Ten Media Day, he tweeted a picture from the podium of his press conference. Miles sure knows how to connect with fans, and that will be good for a program trying to build a more consistent hoops following.
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The news coming out of Minnesota hasn’t been great recently, first with Trevor Mbakwe’s DUI and then assistant coach Saul Smith’s arrest on suspicion of DUI. Needless to say, the Golden Gophers are ready for the season to begin to put their offseason troubles behind them. However, to lighten the mood, here’s something everyone in America undoubtedly wants to see: Tubby Smith doing “Gangnam Style”. Tubby actually isn’t too bad, though he messes up the parts of the dance a couple of times. Women’s coach Pam Borton clearly had practiced for her routine. The dance was part of the Gophers’ “All Star Friday Night,” which included a dunk contest and a scrimmage to go along with the awful dancing.
  2. Iowa also held its kickoff event — the Black and Gold Blowout — this week, including a dunk contest and a scrimmage. Senior Eric May won the dunk contest with an alley-oop off a header. However, the highlight of the night might have been coach Fran McCaffery entering in a yellow Corvette. Scott Dochterman of The Cedar Rapids Gazette has some good stuff on the Blowout, including this nugget: The Hawkeyes had roughly 5,000 fans show up for the event, but the school averaged only 5,500 fans per game in May’s freshman season. This telling statistic shows that the Hawkeyes have certainly come a long way in two short years under McCaffery, both on and off the court.
  3. Last year, Purdue was one of the smaller teams in the Big Ten, sometimes relying on forward Robbie Hummel to take on a “center” role. That team was successful because of its experience and deadly perimeter shooting, but while this year’s team will be inexperienced, it will allow the Boilermakers to sport a more traditional-looking lineup. In fact, Matt Painter hasn’t had this much depth in the frontcourt in his eight years as coach at Purdue, writes Jeff Washburn of the Journal and Courier. The Boilermakers have added four-star, seven-foot center AJ Hammons, as well as four-star forward Jay Simpson to their frontcourt. Overall, Purdue will have six players who are at least 6’8″ or taller this season. It may be a young team in West Lafayette, but it will certainly be a talented one, as well.
  4. This doesn’t have much of a bearing on current news, but a friend pointed it out the other day and it’s an interesting point. This year, Northwestern will open its season against Texas Southern, and while that’s a game that typically wouldn’t have many storylines, it’s actually quite intriguing for several off-court reasons. Northwestern is one of only 17 schools to have never had a major NCAA violation. Texas Southern, however, is a walking NCAA violation. As pointed out by ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan, “Texas Southern is awful at following rules.” The Tigers were cited for “lack of institutional control” and the report on their transgressions is mind-boggling, as “the university allowed 129 student-athletes in 13 sports during seven academic years to compete and receive financial aid and travel expenses when they were ineligible.” There’s plenty more in the report, but the most hilarious thing is that Texas Southern is considered a “double repeat violator.” So this November, the goody-two-shoes of the NCAA will take on the double repeat violator. It should make for an interesting storyline, regardless of the yawner that is likely to occur on the court.
  5. CBS Sports put out its list of the 50 best point guards in college basketball, and the Big Ten was well-represented with two players in the top four and five overall. Michigan’s Trey Burke was the top-ranked point guard in the conference at No. 3, while Ohio State’s Aaron Craft came in right behind him at No. 4. Penn State’s Tim Frazier was No. 15, Michigan State’s Keith Appling was No. 28, and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell round’s out the Big Ten’s representation at No. 33. Ferrell made the list on speculation alone, but the first four are proven and all obvious choices for the list. The only two point guards better than Burke, according to CBS?  Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan and Missouri’s Phil Pressey, who check in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Share this story

Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

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.

Key wins in non-conference play will go a long way towards a NCAA Tournament bid for Fran McCaffery’s crew (AP)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Team Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Where we left off: Last time we saw Iowa, the Hawkeyes were getting run over for 108 points by Oregon in the second round of the NIT. Of course, it was an accomplishment for the program to even get back to the NIT after a promising season, and now, with a number of stars back, Iowa is looking to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fran McCaffery has done a good job of turning the team around, and now, in year three, expectations are high. Clearly McCaffery has his team on the right track, but is this the year Iowa finally makes it back to the NCAA Tournament? There is a lot of inexperience on parts of the court, but enough talent is certainly there for the Hawkeyes to make a run.

Fran McCaffery Has His Team on the Right Track (credit: AP)

Positives: Iowa’s biggest strength this winter will be its depth, and in fact, that could represent the most difficult part of McCaffery’s job. The Hawkeyes may have a hard time finding playing time for everyone with so much returning experience and new talent. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White are locks to start, and they’ll likely be joined by junior forward Melsahn Basabe and freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but after that, the distribution of minutes gets foggy. Junior forward Zach McCabe will likely see considerable minutes, as will freshman center Adam Woodbury, but sophomore center Gabe Olaseni, who McCaffery calls the team’s most improved player, will also be slated for some time. In the backcourt, sophomore shooting specialist Josh Oglesby, freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May will all push for playing time. There are a lot of different looks that this team can show, and while it might be difficult to figure out playing time, that’s a very good problem to have.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Summer Check In: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 16th, 2012

Iowa basketball made headlines this past week when its head coach Fran  McCaffery signed a huge contract extension to remain in Iowa City. After just two seasons, McCaffery has been chosen to lead th Iowa program for the next decade and can make up to $2M per year if the Hawkeyes return to the NCAA Tournament multiple times during that period. Hawkeye Nation definitely remembers the last time it tasted the NCAAs in 2006, when they were upset by Northwestern State in the first round. It has been a crazy ride for Iowa since then but they are beginning to see some light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel.

McCaffery Has Brought A New Culture to Iowa (AP/C. Neibergall)

Evaluating Last Year: Iowa’s 18-17 record in the 2011-12 season can be somewhat deceiving because the Hawkeyes were very competitive in most of their games, especially during conference play. Iowa fans were looking for improvement throughout the season and McCaffery’s crew certainly showed several encouraging signs. They finished the home stretch of the Big Ten season with a decent record of 7-4 and lost only one game at home to Northwestern who was making a serious push for a postseason at-large bid. Except for senior guard Matt Gatens, all of the key players were either freshmen or sophomores. Roy Devin Marble and Aaron White were two of the best young players in the conference as they averaged about 11 points per game, but more importantly showed great composure and maturity. Except for the Ohio State loss (76-47), the Hawkeyes remained competitive in every home conference game, which is a great sign pointing in the overall direction of a rebuilding program. After beating Dayton in the NIT, the Hawkeyes lost in a shootout to Oregon by a score of 108-97 in the second round.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Risky Decisions with Some Recent Coaching Extensions

Posted by EJacoby on July 12th, 2012

In the past few days alone, three power conference schools have provided their head coaches with multi-year extensions after seasons that showed solid progress. South Florida head coach Stan Heath received a new six-year contract last Friday, California rewarded Mike Montgomery with a two-year extension on Monday and Iowa provided Fran McCaffery with a massive seven-year deal yesterday. Notice a trend here? Cal has won just three NCAA Tournament games since 1997, never entering the Dance higher than a #6 seed. Iowa hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2001 and has qualified for the Tourney just twice in the past decade. And USF hadn’t even qualified for the Big Dance since 1992 before last year. Yet each team made enough strides in 2011-12 that was apparently enough to convince school administrators that each coach was deserving of several more years of service. Is there a risk that comes with locking up a head coach after a limited track record of success? These three schools are taking a solid gamble in hoping that relatively small sample sizes are enough to suggest a trend of future success.

Fran McCaffery will be manning the Iowa sidelines for the next seven years (AP Photo)

California, Iowa, and South Florida have all struggled with various levels of mediocrity over the past two decades and been largely overshadowed by their football programs. Cal would appear the biggest name of the three, having produced some exciting teams going back to the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray in the early 90s. But the Golden Bears have surprisingly never received better a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament nor advanced past the Sweet Sixteen since 1980. Iowa has actually had better historical success, receiving a top-four NCAA Tourney seed five times since 1980, though advancing past the Sweet Sixteen just once with a subsequent loss in the 1987 Elite Eight. USF, meanwhile, had never won an NCAA Tournament game in program history before last year’s two victories, making it just twice before in the early 90s as low seeds.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story