Hawkeye Basketball Reborn

Hopefully there will be much more of this in the future, even if it isn't senior guard Matt Gatens doing it.

WRITTEN BY GREG

Iowa Basketball was once a must-see event for a generation of kids.  I was happy to number among them.  From the halcyon days of B.J. Armstrong, Roy Marble, Eddie Horton, and Brad Lohaus to Acie Earl and Kenyon Murray to Andre Woolridge and Chris Kingsbury.  Then to Dean Oliver and Duez Henderson, and finally to Jeff Horner, Greg Brunner, and Adam Haluska.

For crying out loud, I had a dog AND a hog named “Carfino”.

It meant having something very worthwhile to do on cold Wednesday nights during the winter and on lazy Saturday afternoons.  “What are you doing tonight?”  “Watching the Hawks, of course!”

Those days ended on Steve Alford’s watch, mostly when Iowa famously lost to Northwestern State in the 1st Round of the 2006 NCAA tournament as a #3 seed.  Personally, I had pumped nearly $500 into ESPN’s FullCourt satellite package to watch the senior class of Horner-Brunner-Hansen-Thomas and was grossly disappointed with the early exit.

Alford hung on for one more year before finishing tied for 4th in the Big Ten and resigning to go to New Mexico of all places.  This caused Iowa Athletic Director Gary Varda to hire reigning National Coach of the Year Todd Lickliter from Butler.  And what a disaster that followed.

Players with any kind of talent left after every season…even those recruited by Lickliter, who were more than likely put off by his slow pace and total lack of game planning seen for 3 years.  First Tyler Smith leaves for family reasons.  Then Tony Freeman.  And then Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson.  Finally, Aaron Fuller and Cully Payne left after showing some promise and Lickliter himself was fired after a dismal 10-22 season and a 9th place finish in conference.

Flash forward nearly 2 years after the release of Lickliter.  Head coach Fran McCaffery has begun to breathe life into a once proud program.  Players are actually improving within a season, as evidenced by the development of Roy Devyn Marble, the son of Iowa’s all-time leading scorer Roy Marble and freshman sensation Aaron White, a 6’8″ forward from Cleveland.

This team is exciting to watch.  Despite a snowstorm rumbling its way across central and northern parts of the state, over 14,000 fans packed Carver Hawkeye Arena Thursday night to witness Iowa upsetting 15th ranked Wisconsin to complete the first season sweep of the Badgers in 17 years.

Lickliter’s last team in 2009-10 average right at 60.0 points per game and epitomized what local radio personality Steve Deace called “Peach Basket Era” basketball.  Countless offensive possessions ended with shot clock violations and the players seemed to never have any kind of set to run in the halfcourt.  And forget about transition baskets.  Now, they average 73.3 points per game, an increase of 22.2%, thanks largely to a decent halfcourt offense and a spectacular transition philosophy.  No wonder fannies are starting to find their way back to their rightful place courtside to watch an exciting brand of ball that is beginning to turn out wins.  It is just plain fun to watch.

Oh, attendance?  It may be completely coincidental, but after finding that Iowa is up 22% in scoring output now over Lickliter’s last year, it should be noted that attendance is up 22.0%.  Crazy, right?

Consider the Hawkeyes won just 19 conference games since Alford resigned and only 8 the last 2 seasons.  After once again picking off Wisconsin (and days after drubbing #16 Indiana), Iowa now has 7 conference wins, with games against Illinois (#10 Big Ten), Nebraska (#11 Big Ten), and Northwestern (#8 Big Ten @ home) to close the season out.  There is no reason that Iowa can’t go 3-0 in the final games, which could push their conference record to a shocking 10-8.

Looking past what is beginning to be a dangerous team, McCaffery is bringing in what ESPN is calling the #20 overall recruiting class in the country, addressing the shortcomings of this squad (center, point guard) exclusively.  Gone will be senior guard Matt Gatens, whose of-late heroics will be sorely missed, but capable scorers can take his place.  The infusion of new blood to go along with the rapidly developing young players Iowa has makes for a giddy fan base once again.

Recently, a Quad City Times article quoted Miami (OH) head coach Charlie Coles about the seemingly quick-trigger firing of his 2nd year assistant, Todd Lickliter:

“Their facilities aren’t that great. It’s not the best of programs. Why they wouldn’t keep a guy like him, I don’t get it. They were going to be pretty good with the players he was bringing in. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful teacher. There’s something special about him. It’s too bad Iowa couldn’t see it.”

What Iowa going to benefit from the players Lickliter was bringing in?  Someone should remind Coles that Iowa lost the top scorer from each of Lickliter’s season after that campaign concluded.  No one was ever left to build on.  To his credit, he did find Marble and stole him away from Michigan (it didn’t hurt that Daddy is a Hawkeye Great), but I doubt he would be in the same position McCaffery finds his squad in now…a postseason bid an almost certainty and nothing but bright futures ahead of it.
Seniors
SG  Matt Gatens, PG Bryce Cartwright, C Jacob Brommer, C/F Devon Archie.  Really, only Gatens will be missed from this group.  Cartwright is a nice player to have on your roster, but Iowa has proven they can win games without him regularly.  Brommer and Archie are just two more in a long line of tall humans who can’t play basketball at the D-I level.
Juniors
SF Eric May.  May’s back has prevented him from displaying some awesome raw athleticism.  He’s never really delivered on the promise of his freshman year, but he’s a great option off the bench next year.
Sophomores
PG Roy Devyn Marble, PF Melsahn Basabe, PF Zach McCabe.  Here’s where the leadership will be in 1-2 years when Iowa is knocking on the door for the NCAA tournament.  Marble is a match-up nightmare, who at 6’6″ and very athletic, he can shred smaller guards.  Basabe may be being best utilized now as a high-energy 6th man who provides hustle, defense, and rebounding.  McCabe probably isn’t going to give the back-to-back 20 point games all the time like he did earlier this Big Ten season, but he’s dangerous on the perimeter enough to draw big men out and let Marble and Company have easy paths to the hoop.
Freshmen
 F Aaron White, SG Josh Oglesby, C Gabriel Olaseni, F Darius Stokes.  White is probably going to be Iowa’s next great player, and Oglesby will need to fill Gaten’s sizeable shoes, but the others are more or less role players.
Incoming Recruits
C Adam Woodbury, PG Mike Gesell, SG Patrick Ingram, F/C Kyle Meyer, PG Anthony Clemmons.  Of this list, Woodbury (7’1″ from Sioux City) and Gesell (6’1″ South Sioux City, NE) received offers from big schools, with Woodbury receiving scholarship offers to Ohio State, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and several other BSC schools.  He’s a left handed big man named the MVP of an All-Star game who will immediately contribute.  This will give Iowa some differentiation in the starting lineup come next year, as they can go like this:
C  Adam Woodbury (7’1″)
PF  Aaron White (6’8″)
SF  Roy Devyn Marble (6’6″)
SG  Josh Oglesby (6’5″)
PG  Mike Gesell (6’1″)
…   …   …   …

I casually asked a couple of friends of mine at work what their most reasonable lofty expectations were of Iowa basketball in general.  Both gave me identical answers, and echoed my own sentiments.  We want a consistent NCAA tournament team that finishes in the upper half of the conference and wins 20+ games a year, with the every-four-years-or-so 25-27 game winner.

So, like Tom Davis.  Yeah.  We want the Tom Davis-level of results we saw as kids.  Sounds good to me.

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~ by goetgre on February 25, 2012.

One Response to “Hawkeye Basketball Reborn”

  1. Amen goetzee!

    Like

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