Saturday, March 5, 2011

Iowa Basketball 2011: Senior Day and Next Year

The Iowa Hawkeyes will host Senior Day for Jarryd Cole on Saturday with an ESPN audience at 3 p.m. central time, as the #6 ranked Purdue Boilermakers travel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the final regular season game. Cole has served as team captain the past three seasons for Iowa. Cole has been an outstanding representative for the Hawkeyes, despite the hard times for the Hawkeye program the past five seasons.

"There's nothing else I can give above loyalty. When I committed to the
University of Iowa, I committed to more than just a coach and a couple guys -- I
committed to a community, a state and its fans. The fans have invested in us,
and I wanted to show them that I invested in them. I've appreciated everything
the fans have done. They've been great."
- Jarryd Cole

A win over Purdue will assure the Hawkeyes a ten seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. (Note: a loss by Indiana @ Illinois will give Iowa the ten seed). Iowa and Indiana are currently in the basement of the Big Ten. Iowa owns the tie-breaker, after sweeping the series again this season over the Hooisers.

Iowa has lost 25 straight games to nationally-ranked opponents. The Hawkeyes' last victory over a ranked foe came against sixth-ranked Michigan State (43-36) in Iowa City on Jan. 12, 2008.

Wins have been difficult again for the Hawkeyes in 2010-11. It was in Todd Lickliter's third and final season as head coach at Iowa last year. However, most who follow Big Ten basketball would suggest progress has been made.

"I think we have progressed. I think I had hoped we would progress
more. I didn't have a win total in my head as far as what I thought this team
could accomplish. All I wanted to do was prepare for the next game and try to
get better. I think we've done that
." - Fran McCaffery

Iowa's new coach Fran McCaffery on Friday talked about progress being made, however, woeful the record this season as been, the Hawkeyes look to finish strong. McCaffery has assembled a very strong coaching staff. The three true freshman this season have been among Iowa's best, since the 1972-73 season for Iowa. Iowa's four newcomers have played very strong roles for Iowa, but winning with youth is a tall order in the Big Ten. Iowa's lone senior has improved as any Hawkeye player this year.

Experience usually is a key element to success at Iowa, as former coaches Dr. Tom Davis and Steve Alford can attest. Davis lead Iowa regularly to the NCAA Tournment in his 13 seasons at Iowa. Iowa's last win in the NCAA Tournament came ten years ago under Alford. Look around the rosters of Big Ten, the teams enjoying success this season also have there share of senior experience. Yes, it is a numbers game.

The Lickliter era was highlighted for players leaving. Cole is the only player remaining from Lickliter's first class. Last season, Iowa only played with one senior, who was a former juco transfer and role player. Iowa is making progress under McCaffery, but building a roster with experience will take time and there is no magic formula for immediate success.

Iowa has been without a second true point guard, when sophomore Cully Payne fell to injury early in the non-conference season. Iowa elevated Juco transfer Bryce Cartwright to Payne's PG position and he has responded well as a top player for the Hawkeyes, but true freshman Roy Devyn Marble has had to play the reserve role at point guard. Marble's true position is on the wing and he is now starting lineup on the wing.

Youth has brought excitement back into the Iowa basketball program. Iowa is starting right now three players, who had zero Big Ten experience heading into the season. A fourth is playing key minutes in reserve off the bench. Other than Cole, Iowa's returning players have had up and down seasons adjusting to McCaffery's style of play, which was a sharp contrast to Lickliter's slow-down game.

What can we expect in 2011-12 for Iowa?

As the Big Ten analyst Jim Jackson said about Iowa during the Big Ten season, it will likely take five years for McCaffery. Some Iowa fans are expecting a NCAA Dance invite next season, if the right players are signed this Spring.

The truth is likely some where in between, if Coach McCaffery and the Iowa staff can continue the progress. Look at Michigan right now. They are the youngest team in the Big Ten right now. But, talent alone has only made them a bubble team. If they had the experience, as compared to other Big Ten teams, they would likely be a NCAA lock right now.

Iowa likely will not have as much talent as the Wolverines, but they will have more experience for 2011-12. Will it be enough? Never say never, but it may take more than one year for McCaffery, his staff and an updated roster to reach that breakout season and return to the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa has two signees for the Class of 2011 and they are looking to sign two, maybe three more, assuming a player opts out. The loss of Jarrayd Cole will be felt in leadership first and inside in the post second next season. Typically, it takes more time developing strong post play, than any other position.

Leadership will have to step up in 2011-12 for Iowa. McCaffery has suggested Matt Gatens, Cartwright, Melsahn Basabe and Eric May as those key players. It would be nice to see another senior step up his game. McCaffery has likely put Cartwright's name and Basabe's name in ink as key players for the 2011-12 season for the Hawkeyes. There development during the off season is still very important. They can't settle for where they are now, but they are the first two pieces at this point for McCaffery and his staff.

The roles of everyone else will have to be better defined by off-season development and maturity. Yes, I have Gatens off that list. Gatens up and down three-point shooting is the reason. I believe May's role for the Hawkeyes will be just as important.

  • Bryce Cartwright is one of only two Hawkeyes to ever dish out eight assists or more in four straight games. The junior collected eight or more at Penn State (8), at Michigan (9), vs. Michigan State (10) and at Indiana (8). The only other Hawkeye to record eight assists or more in four-straight contests was Andre Woolridge during the 1994-95 season. Woolridge was credited with eight helpers vs. Hawaii, nine vs. Arkansas, nine vs. Indiana and nine against Michigan State.

  • Melsahn Basabe is etching his name in several Iowa freshman historical statistical categories. Basabe has scored 325 points (11.2 avg.), pulled down 200 rebounds (6.9 avg.) and blocked 40 shots (1.4 avg.). The 325 points rank ninth, while his 11.2 average ranks eighth in Iowa rookie annals. His 200 rebounds rank third and is only four from taking over the top spot. His 40 rejections rank third.

  • Eric May averages 11 points (13-18, .727 FG and 7-10, .700 FT) and 2.7 rebounds in Iowa's three Big Ten wins. Conversely, May averages 4.4 points (19-66, .288 FG and 9-16, .563 FT) and 1.5 boards in Iowa's 14 conference defeats.

  • Matt Gatens ranks fourth among Big Ten juniors in career scoring. Northwestern's John Shurna ranks first, followed by Ohio State's William Buford and Indiana's Verdell Jones III.

  • Iowa freshmen Melsahn Basabe, Zach McCabe and Roy Devyn Marble average 12.2 rebounds per game, which is the best rebounding average by a Hawkeye freshman class.

  • Andrew Brommer will be a senior post next season. Where will his game elevate for 2011-12, especially with Cole's departure? Brommer and Gatens are the only two four year players at Iowa heading into next season. Brommer is shorter than former Iowa center Seth Gorney, who provided some quality time during his junior and senior seasons at Iowa.

  • Will Devon Archie be back as a reserve for 2011-12. He may be dressed for the Purdue game. He has been out of the rotation for the most part, since a head injury at Indiana, Feb. 5, in Iowa's lone Big Ten road win (64-63) this season. Archie is another former JC transfer, who is a project, but did provide an occasional burst of quality minutes during the season.

The 2011-12 season will have to wait. Iowa has Senior Day ahead, then the 2011 Big Ten Basketball Tournament. Recruiting is occurring, with a key prospect attending this weekend and rumors of a second prospect out there. It has been a bitter-sweet season for Iowa. There is more excitement, but close wins and coming up with a "L" in the record column is still a common occurrence in Iowa City.


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