The Iowa Hawkeyes are hoping that another coaching change can rebuild a program that has gone in the wrong direction the last few years. Iowa suffered through their third straight losing season last year, the first time that has happened since the 1930?s. With that disappointment came the firing of head coach Todd Lickliter, who went just 38-58 in three seasons at Iowa. In comes Fran McCaffrey, who will replace Lickliter’s slow tempo offense and go to a much faster style of play. McCaffrey has had a lot of success turning programs around, and has spent the last five years at Siena, where he went 112-51. Winning may still be a problem in the first season for McCaffrey, who really didn’t get enough time to land any big time recruits and a number of players from last season opted not to return. To get a better idea of what the Hawkeyes will look like this year, here is quick breakdown of their current roster, plus my pick on where they will finish the season in the Big Ten.
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Checking out the current NCAA basketball spreads for next season, the oddsmakers currently have the Hawkeyes offered with the worst odds to win the Big Ten at +2500, so anything above last place in conference play figures to be a solid step towards the right direction for the Hawkeyes.
Backcourt: Iowa returns both starting guards, which is a big bonus for a team looking to get back on the right track. Junior Matt Gatens is the best player the Hawkeyes have and has started every game since his freshman season, and could be primed for a breakout season with the new offense. Gatens tore a tendon in his left wrist, but should be back right around the beginning of the year. Also returning is sophomore point guard Cully Payne, who contributed 8 points and nearly 4 assists per contest as a freshman, and he too believes his game will only improve with a faster paced offense. Added to the mix is junior college transfer Bryce Cartwright, who should be a key contributor from the start.
Frontcourt: Two more starters return in senior Jarryd Cole and sophomore Eric May, but both are undersized, something Iowa is going to have touble with again this season. Junior to be Aaron Fuller had some high hopes this season, but decided it was in his best interest to transfer to USC. Cole is just 6’7 but played center for Iowa most of last year, but wasn’t much of a factor in the offense, putting up just eight points a night. May is extremely athletic and will have to use that to his strength this year. Freshman Melsahn Basabe was going to join McCaffery at Siena, and decided to go with the coach in his move to Iowa, and could play his way into the starting lineup right away. Fellow freshmen Zach McCabe and junior college transfer Devon Archie also should get a chance to play early. Iowa also returns junior Andrew Brummer, but he has only played sparingly in his first two seasons, and anything he adds will be a plus.
Pick: 11th in the Big Ten: While Iowa should be better than they were a year ago, this is a team in transition and just simply doesn’t have the talent needed to compete in the Big Ten. If the team responds well to McCaffery’s new system and the freshmen produce early, Iowa may be able to squirm out of the basement, but this team is probably a few years from being a winning team again.
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