Iowa MBB: VanLaere’s 2012-13 Season Preview & Prediction
College basketball is upon us; the beginning of the one of the best times of the year. Expectations and excitement around the Iowa program is as high as it’s been since the days of Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner (that was seven years ago, as unbelievable as that seems).
Here’s the breakdown of the Hawkeyes’ schedule –
Home Games: 9 non-conference, 9 conference
Away Games: 1 non-conference, 9 conference
Neutral Games: 3 non-conference, at least 1 in the B1G Tourney
Totals: 18 home games, 10 away, ~4 neutral
Iowa’s non-conference schedule isn’t going to impress the selection committee come March – the lack of quality opponents with hurt Iowa if they are sitting on the bubble. The issue with Iowa’s SOS is that they aren’t playing middle of the pack “high mid-major” teams or top level “mid-major squads”. Instead Iowa has filled its schedule with schools from fringe and low mid-major schools (and not even the top level squads from those conferences). For example, Iowa has three games vs. teams from the MEAC (one of the worst conferences in the country).
I’ll break that down even more for you. John Gasaway categorizes conferences into 5 tiers – High Major, High Mid-Major, Mid-Major, Low Mid-Major, and Fringe Mid-Major. Of the potential opponents Iowa faces in non-conference, here are the tiers they fit into:
HIGH MAJOR: DePaul,Virginia Tech, Iowa State
HIGH MID-MAJOR: Wichita State, UNI
MID-MAJOR: Central Michigan, Western Kentucky
LOW MID-MAJOR: Gardner-Webb, Texas A&M Corpus Christi,South Dakota
FRINGE MID-MAJOR: Texas-Pan Am, Howard,South Carolina State, Coppin State
What’s more is only a handful of those teams have a legitimate shot at winning their conference (UNI, Wichita State, Western Kentucky) and several are some of the worst schools in their conferences (South Carolina State, South Dakota, DePaul, Texas-Pan AM, Central Michigan, Texas A&M Corpus Christi). So you have a schedule full of low and fringe mid-major teams who are expected to perform poorly in their respective low-level conferences. The only real challenges that Iowa should face are the Cancun Championship game, Virginia Tech, UNI, and ISU in the non-conference. There aren’t really any other quality teams on their schedule.
Why is this important? For several reasons. The Big Ten is unanimously seen as the premier conference in the nation once again this year. It’s a double-edged sword, as wins vs. the top half of the conference will boost Iowa’s quality wins, yet the potential to lose more games than win in conference is certainly there. The opportunity for “bad losses” in conference for the Hawkeyes is very small, save a couple from the projected bottom dwellers. So while playing in the Big Ten won’t hurt Iowa’s SOS, it’s really the only place Fran’s team can make a statement to the committee. That will be tough to do in a league this deep and talented.
A quick peek at the conference schedule and you can see it sets up very similar to last year. A loaded start to conference play will likely see Iowa upside-down in conference right off the bat and they’ll attempt to get back to .500 throughout the remaining conference slate. I see home games in conference going in favor of Iowa more often than not this season. Fans will start making C-HA a bit more inhospitable for opposing teams; maybe not to the level of years past, but certainly an uptick from recent years.
OK then… onto the predictions for this year. WIN / LOSS are to the right of the opponent. Below the predictions are my explanations / info on the teams / matchups.
11/09 vs. Texas-Pan American IOWA CITY WIN
11/12 vs. Central Michigan IOWA CITY WIN
11/15 vs. Howard IOWA CITY WIN
11/17 vs. Gardner-Webb TV IOWA CITY WIN
11/20 vs. Western Kentucky CANCUN WIN
11/21 vs. DePaul /Wichita State CANCUN LOSS
11/27 at Virginia Tech BLACKSBURG WIN
12/01 vs. TexasA&M (CorpCr) IOWA CITY WIN
12/04 vs. South Dakota IOWA CITY WIN
12/07 vs. Iowa State IOWA CITY WIN
12/15 vs. UNI DES MOINES LOSS
12/19 vs. South Carolina State IOWA CITY WIN
12/22 vs. Coppin State IOWA CITY WIN
12/31 vs. Indiana IOWA CITY LOSS
01/06 at Michigan ANN ARBOR LOSS
01/10 vs.Mich State IOWA CITY LOSS
01/13 at Northwestern EVANSTON LOSS
01/19 vs. Wisconsin IOWA CITY WIN
01/22 at OhioState COLUMBUS LOSS
01/27 at Purdue W LAFAYETTE LOSS
01/31 vs. Penn State IOWA CITY WIN
02/03 at Minnesota MINNEAPOLIS LOSS
02/06 at Wisconsin MADISON LOSS
02/09 vs.Northwestern IOWA CITY WIN
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02/14 at Penn State UNIVPARK WIN
02/17 vs.Minnesota IOWA CITY WIN
02/21 at Nebraska LINCOLN WIN
02/27 vs. Purdue IOWA CITY WIN
03/02 at Indiana BLOOMINGTON LOSS
03/05 vs. Illinois IOWA CITY WIN
03/09 vs. Nebraska IOWA CITY WIN
Final Record (pre-B1G Tourney) 20-11
I think the Iowa State and UNI games are toss-ups right now and Iowa’s second game in Cancun is very winnable, as well. I just don’t see them running the table in the non-conference. One thing is for sure, they cannot afford to lose to any of underdogs they face, as it would be a glaring bad loss on their resume.
The game in Evanston is a toss-up, as well. I have a good feeling that Iowa can win on the purple court, especially now that Shurna is gone. If Iowa can win that game (as well as the others I’ve predicted) then Iowa will be in the Dance, as a 10 B1G win team won’t be left out of the field. The Illinois game is also and intriguing one at the end of the year. If Groce has that team playing well, they could sneak out of Carver with a win.
Assuming my predictions above hold true and Iowa ends the season 20-11 (9-9), they probably are going to be on the outside of the bubble. Unless Iowa gets a win over Indiana, Michigan State or Michigan, they’ll need to get 1 or 2 in the Big Ten Tournament to get into the NCAA Tourney. At this point, I am predicting Iowa to be one of the top seeds in the N.I.T. even though going into the BTT Iowa would be 7-3 in their L10 per my prediction. The Hawkeyes appear to still be a year away at this point in time.
Here is a brief look at each program Iowa will face during this year’s non-conference slate (conference outlook will be released when Iowa gets to that point in their schedule). I’ll throw in the team’s Pomeroy rankings, even though I don’t buy into them until 12-15 games into the season. That said, I will note their preseason KenPom for reference sake, as well as their Massey Rating. Iowa’s preseason Pomeroy is 53 (they were preseason 61 last year and finished at 86) and their Massey Rating is 69.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 330, Preseason Massing Rating – 436
Last year, Iowa started off the season against the worst ranked Pomeroy team in the nation in Chicago State. This year they upped the difficulty by starting out of the gate with the 18th worst ranked Pomeroy team in the nation (out of 347 teams). Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. The Broncs lost their leading scorer from last year. Iowa will likely put up 90+ points and cruise to a 40 point win.
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Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 322, Preseason Massing Rating – 252
Keno Davis makes his non-BTN return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Chippewas lost their best player, and former Top 50 recruit, Trey Ziegler when his father was fired last season. CMU is thin in the backcourt due to other player transfers and is a very, very young team. This should be a high scoring game if Keno brings the type of offense he’s established at other stops. The CMU staff is trying to build this program from the ground up, but they still have a long way to go. Iowa by 25+ pts. Fire Up (the bus), Chips!
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 301, Preseason Massing Rating – 396
This low/middle of the pack MEAC team should not pose any issues for Iowa. I would be surprised to see their win column reach double-digits this season. Awful eFG from the returning players and the squad has been turnover prone in the past. Iowa could get to the century mark in this game depending on the halftime lead and if the 12-14 men on the roster score a lot of points in the last eight minutes of the game.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 240, Preseason Massing Rating – 319
Third year under their coach, saw modest improvements last year. Should be a middle of the pack Big South team. The last time Iowa played a middle of the pack Big South team was last season. They were the Camels of Campbell. Cake walk, huh? Worry not; this Gardner-Webb team doesn’t pose the frontcourt matchup problems for Iowa that we saw last year. Iowa should win by 20-25 points.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 180, Preseason Massing Rating – 173
Yes, the Hilltoppers made it into the NCAA Tourney last year on the heels of a ridiculous comeback in one of the play-in games. But let’s not forget, they won 16 games last year and without a push from one-time Iowa recruiting target, George Fant, in their conference tournament, they would have missed even the NIT. Fant will be an intriguing matchup at the forward spot for Iowa. I expect this to be tightly contested for awhile before Iowa opens up a high-teens lead and takes the game. Will Cancun distract the Hawkeyes?
DePaul / Wichita State
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 100 / 46, Preseason Massing Rating – 141 / 23
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This opponent will be decided later, depending on the winners of the two games in the Riviera Division of the Cancun Classic. I like Iowa’s chance vs. DePaul much more than those against WSU. DePaul is playing faster ball on offense, but is just God awful on D. WSU could give Iowa issues in the backcourt with Malcolm Armstead (that name should ring a bell for Iowa fans) – an extremely athletic PG who is now eligible to play after transferring from Oregon (previously at Chipola CC). Iowa can beat either of these teams, but I am putting this one down as a loss.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 77, Preseason Massing Rating – 70
Iowa’s first true road game is against an ACC foe. Mike Gesell will have his hands full with Erick Green at the PG spot, but the rest of the Virginia Tech team is pretty average. This is the first head coaching gig for James Johnson – he was an assistant under Seth Greenberg. Iowa’s pace of play coupled with the fact that the Hokies have just eight scholarship players on the team, I like the Hawkeyes to wear down Virginia Tech on the road. Hawks by 9.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 329, Preseason Massing Rating – 392
One of the worst teams in the one of the worst basketball conferences in the nation. Several JUCO transfers will look to help out this team that only returns two starters. They are a bad defensive team and a worse offensive team. Look for this to be a repeat of the season opener for the Hawkeyes. Iowa by 35+.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 314, Preseason Massing Rating – 326
At first you might have been a little excited to see this team on the schedule. You thought, oh I remember them coming to C-HA with Nate Wolters and beating Iowa in Fran’s first game as Iowa’s coach. But, alas, it’s not SDSU, it’s USD (not the currency). South Dakota boasts Kansas State transfer Juevol Myles, but the rest of the team has a lot of work to do. Expect USD to finish near the bottom of the Summit this year. Iowa big in this one, as well, by 35+ points.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 62, Preseason Massing Rating – 33
The Hawkeyes typically hold serve at home vs. the Cyclones. This is a really intriguing matchup from a lot of angles. Transfers, again, will be the stars for this ISU team. A lot of shooters for the Cyclones and they could light up the scoreboard from downtown if Iowa’s perimeter defense lacks this year. I think this could be the most entertaining and competitive non-conference game for the Hawkeyes this year. If this game was played in Ames, I’d take ISU, but I’m picking Iowa in a close one.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 48, Preseason Massing Rating – 86
The Panthers are my pick to win the MVC this year and this game will go a long way in gauging both teams’ chances in their respective conferences. UNI’s frontcourt is exceptional, leaning on Seth Tuttle down low. Like Iowa, they are the deepest they’ve been in a long time. The Hawkeyes will look to run, while UNI will look to slow down the pace using the 3 pt shot as the difference maker and getting put backs from its frontcourt. Let’s hope this neutral site game is better officiated than the one in Cedar Falls last year. I can see this game going either way, but at this point I’m taking UNI by a couple points.
South Carolina State
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 345, Preseason Massing Rating – 613
This is certainly the easiest matchup on the non-conference slate for Iowa. Last season, SCSU went 0-16 in the MEAC. This could be one of the sloppiest games of the season for the Hawkeyes. South Carolina State likes to push the tempo, but lack any sort of efficiency on that end of the court. Expect a ton of turnovers and a lot of up and down action a la YMCA league. Hawks put up 100 and win by 40+.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 317, Preseason Massing Rating – 328
Iowa closes the non-conference season with back-to-back MEAC opponents. The Eagles lost the bulk of their minutes due to graduation and the players they have left aren’t going to set the conference on fire. They are a young team that will probably have tough sledding early in the season. While Coppin State should be better than SCSU, it’s marginal. Iowa should roll by 25+ pts.
– Justin VanLaere
Follow me on Twitter @storminspank