The Rebirth of a Program: Iowa Basketball
by, 03-12-2012 at 08:10 PM (638 Views)
Iowa basketball had been wallowing in futility under former Coach Todd Lickliter; setting the record for most losses in season with 21 and won a total of 15 Big Ten games. The last season under former Coach Steve Alford was nothing to write home about either with a 17-14 season and 9 wins in the Big Ten, conference record was respectable, but no postseason. Iowa had fallen from a perennial NCAA contender to a team that had trouble finding thier way out of the Big Ten basement. The only saving grace was that Penn State and Indiana were in very poor shape as well.
In comes Coach Fran McCaffery and a first season that opened with a loss to South Dakota State; turns out they really aren't that bad with most of their roster returning to this year's NCAA tournament team. Iowa went through McCaffery's first season by opening the Big Ten season with 6 straight losses. There were some positive games during Fran's first season; closing the season by sending Jarryd Cole out with a win against No. 6 ranked Purdue on Senior Day. Iowa closes the season with a loss in the Big Ten tournament to Michigan State by 5 points, a team they had both beaten and lost too by 20 points during the regular season. The first season, fans could see a change in the mentality of the Iowa players, they didn't look frustrated all the time and appeared to be ejoying playing basketball again despite finishing the season 11-20.
Fran's second season brought some optimism back to the fanbase. After all, Iowa returned players like Matt Gatens (Started every game in his Hawkeye career and leading scorer for the past two seasons), Bryce Cartwright (led BIG in assists in conference games) and Melsahn Basabe (All-Freshman team and set Iowa freshman record for rebounds in a season). Iowa had struggles in the non-conference schedule with a mix of injuries and poor play, there were double digit wins and losses. There were some low moments, like at UNI when Coach McCaffery was escorted off the court by officers after he "failed to leave the floor" in a timely manner. Having seen the game, it was surprising Fran lasted as long as he did with how poorly the game was officiated and then getting the officers involved was just an absolute sham. There is one thing about Fran McCaffery that fans appreciate; he always fights for his team. Some may think he is a bit extreme at times, like at MSU when he slammed the chair down during a timeout, but he wants his teams to be tough. The single-most important factor that Fran brings to Iowa is an attitude of self-worth, mental toughness and becoming better people.
Iowa basketball is "back" and that is meant in a way not that Iowa is going to contend for a National Championship next year, but back in a sense that all the bleeding from the open wound has stopped. Gone are the days of bringing in 5 recruits, only to have to recruit 6 more players when there were no Seniors. Iowa in the last two recruiting classes has brought 8 players in while losing 6 players (5 Seniors and 1 Transfer). Iowa won 8 games in conference play this season with sweeps against Minnesota and Wisconsin. The bad in conference play was losing at home to Nebraska and Purdue after having 10+ point leads with less than ten minutes to go in each game. A loss at Penn State was a huge blow to Iowa and what some believed was a slim hope of going to the NCAA tournament, it was slim at best. When Iowa had a bad loss, they seemed to always come back with a big win, like losing by over 20 points at Michigan State, but then winning by 16 at home against Michigan the next game. There were a lot of good moment, but also the head scratchers.
Fran McCaffery has done a phenomenal job at Iowa since he stepped on campus. Take a look at the roster and ask yourself, what player is a difference maker? What player can be all-conference? Not too many answers there and winning 8 games in conference is a testament to Fran and his coaching ability. Recently, there was a radio host that called Iowa a "bad" team, they aren't "bad" as they made the NIT. There is still the perception of who Iowa is to those fans who don't pay attention to others. This radio host was an MSU fan; there are two teams that Iowa simply cannot compete with in the BIG at this point, MSU is one and OSU is the other; it is no shock that Iowa's worst losses were against these teams. Iowa cannot compete with the frontcourt that either of these teams put on the floor, not even their second unit.
Iowa basketball is back and the sky is the limit for the program under Coach Fran McCaffery.