MBB: VanLaere's 2011-12 Season Preview & Predictions
By Justin VanLaere
It’s that time again – college basketball time – the best time of the year. With that in mind, let’s look at this year’s schedule for the Iowa Men’s Basketball team.
Home Games: 10 non-conference, 9 conference
Away Games: 2 non-conference, 9 conference
Neutral Games: 1 non-conference, at least 1 in the B1G Tourney
Totals: 19 home games, 11 away, ~2 neutral
Here are my predictions for this year. We’ll re-evaluate this again once the B1G schedule starts. Again, this is a pretty darn early prediction that’s based on a lot of preseason research on teams that haven’t played any games of real importance yet.
Chicago State IOWA CITY Win
North Carolina A&T IOWA CITY Win
Northern Illinois IOWA CITY Win
Creighton DES MOINES Loss
Campbell IOWA CITY Win
IUPU-FW IOWA CITY Win
Clemson IOWA CITY Win
Brown IOWA CITY Win
Northern Iowa CEDAR FALLS, IA Loss
Iowa State AMES, IA Loss
Drake IOWA CITY Win
Central Arkansas IOWA CITY Win
Boise State IOWA CITY Win
Purdue IOWA CITY Loss
Wisconsin MADISON Loss
Minnesota MINNEAPOIS Loss
Ohio State IOWA CITY Loss
Michigan State EAST LANSING Loss
Michigan IOWA CITY Loss
Purdue WEST LAFAYETTE Loss
Nebraska IOWA CITY Win
Indiana BLOOMINGTON Loss
Minnesota IOWA CITY Win
Penn State IOWA CITY Win
Northwestern EVANSTON Win
Penn State STATE COLLEGE Win
Indiana IOWA CITY Win
Wisconsin IOWA CITY Loss
Illinois CHAMPAIGN Loss
Nebraska LINCOLN Win
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Northwestern IOWA CITY Win
Final Record (pre-B1G Tourney): 18-13
Depending on their draw in the B1G Tourney, there’s a slight chance that Iowa could flirt with 20 wins this season. No, I’m not saying Iowa is a 20 win team this season nor am I saying they are necessarily making a post-season tournament. However, if Iowa can get to that 16-19 win area, they have a decent shot of making the CBI or the CollegeInsider tournament at minimum. Any sort of postseason berth for this team would be a terrific accomplishment coming off last year’s 10 win season.
The Hawkeyes won’t have to leave the state of Iowa until the last day of 2011. That gives this team a great chance to get things going and build momentum for the conference slate (one that isn’t too favorable to start off). I’ll state the obvious, even if you don’t believe me – all of the games on Iowa’s non-conference are very winnable. Very winnable. The Creighton-Iowa game will be the first real challenge for the Hawkeyes and will give fans a good idea of how the rest of the non-conference schedule could go. They get a terrific reality check when they host Clemson in the B1G/ACC Challenge, a game I think Iowa will end up winning. Skip ahead to the back-to-back-to-back in-state matchups. Iowa has their first true road games and both will be phenomenal tests for this Hawkeye squad. It’s tough to see Iowa coming out with wins against ISU or UNI in their houses, but getting Drake at home should result in a W for the Hawks. The last real test will be at home vs. Boise State, another game I think Iowa wins. Yes, I’m predicting Iowa wins all of their non-conference games inside Carver-Hawkeye, while losing all of their games away from home.
As the conference schedule kicks in, it will likely kick Iowa’s butt. The schedulers for the Big Ten did no favors here for the Hawkeyes. Four of the first seven games are on the road (at Wisconsin, at Minnesota, at Michigan State, at Purdue) and the first three home games shoves Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan down their throats. That’s the (projected) top five teams in the B1G right off the bat. Yikes. As Fran McCaffery will likely say – it’s going to be a real challenge. If Iowa can pull off a win in the first third of their conference schedule, it will be a great achievement for the squad. The good news with the brutality of those first seven games is that the final eleven games gives Iowa a terrific chance to go on a late-season run. They get multiple games with teams likely to finish in the bottom half of the B1G during the second part of their conference schedule. That sort of thing can allow a team to win games when it counts most. It’s not totally unforeseeable that Iowa goes into that home game vs. Wisconsin on a five game winning streak and it could give the Hawks enough momentum to take down the Badgers late in the season (a la #6 Purdue last year).
Alright, those are my predictions. Now let’s take 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 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. Iowa’s preseason Pomeroy is 61.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 345
Iowa could not have scheduled an easier season opener than this one. No, seriously, their preseason Pomeroy is the worst in Division I basketball. No offense to the Cougars, but there are DII teams that have more talent. They netted just six wins last year, and to make matters worse they bring hardly any of their offensive firepower back this season. Iowa should win by 30+ points.
North Carolina A&T
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 285
The Aggies lost their big man from last year’s squad who basically carried them the entire year. Watch for the Aggies point guard, Hill, to emerge this season. Tough to see this team give Iowa any type of trouble in their game.
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Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 315
Predicted to finish near the bottom of the MAC yet again this year, there’s no reason to think this year’s squad will be any better than the team that won nine games last year. They brought in Mark Montgomery (B1G fans should recognize that name) to coach, but will that be enough to make up for the Huskies bringing back only 20% of their offense? I don’t see them getting to double-digit wins this year or sticking with Iowa.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 83
This Creighton team has the potential to win the MVC this season. Their offense is going to one of the best in the conference, but is their defense good enough to take them to the next level (no Alford pun intended)? Korver is gone, as is Lawson. However, Doug McDermott is just getting his college career kicked into high gear. Very tough matchup for Iowa in this one, but the game could go either way.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 215
They are the Campbell Camels. Seriously, that’s their mascot – a camel. They were in the Atlantic Sun conference, but recently moved to the Big South (where they used be a long time ago). The Camels have a pretty decent frontcourt, so that will challenge Iowa, especially if Brommer isn’t 100% by that point and time.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 198
No more Dane Fife, he’s moved to the B1G to hang out with Tom Izzo. That leaves IPFW will a new coach, although he’s been assistant in the program for quite a while. The Mastodons racked up 18 wins last season, but it will be tough sledding for them to repeat that sort of accomplishment with the players they lost.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 35
Here’s the next big test for Iowa on their non-conference schedule. Yes, the Tigers made The Dance last season. Yes, they bring about half of their offense and defense back. Very much like Iowa, though, they are in a transitioning program. Not so much because they, too, have a 2nd year coach, but because they are flipping a lot of players this year. Senior Andre Young is their only real, legitimate scoring threat, and the team has a lack of depth after losing five players from last year’s squad. I can see Iowa wearing out this team on their home court, especially if the Tigers haven’t yet found that 2nd and 3rd scoring option by the time they come into C-HA. They will give Iowa plenty of extra possessions in the game, but can Iowa capitalize? That’s one of the big questions.
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Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 245
It’s Brown. It’s a basketball team full of smart kids. It’s like a nerdier version of Northwestern (sans a player that shoots like an elementary school-aged girl). The Bears can score points in heaps, thanks to the 3 point line, but they need to show that they can play defense too. For fans’ sake, you can be thankful they don’t run the Princeton offense.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 66
The Panthers will compete with Creighton and Wichita State for the conference crown this season. Ahelegbe is gone, much to announcers’ delight everywhere. However, UNI is bringing back a talented bunch of players again. Iowa has had issues winning in Cedar Falls, I expect this year to be no different.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 123
Is Hilton Magic back? I don’t think it’s there yet, but it certainly has potential to get there. No, not because of Fred Hoiberg and his merry band of misfits, but because ISU fans are making an effort to bring it back. Ok, also because of the aforementioned merry band of misfits. Hoiberg has brought in transfers from all across the land to help jumpstart the Cyclone Basketball program. Will it work? Only time will tell if the nation’s best scout team can make the transition. If Royce White can keep it together, he could have himself an All-Big XII type of year. Could be tough sledding for Iowa in Ames this year.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 131
This is pretty much the same ho-hum Drake team we’ve seen since Dr. Tom and his son left town. The Bulldogs have lost VanDeest for a significant amount of time (if not the whole season) due to a shoulder injury. The roster is packed with mid-major talent, and I just don’t see enough from this squad to be able to compete with Iowa at home.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 335
The Bears won five games last year and only two of those games were against D-I schools. Corliss Williamson, the former Razorback, is in his second year as head coach and he has quite the project on his hands. This team will be almost as bad as Chicago State. The Hawkeyes shouldn’t have any problems in this game.
Preseason Pomeroy Ranking – 193
BSU loses a lot of production from last year’s team that went to the postseason (one win from the NCAA Tourney to be exact). Don’t expect the Broncos to finish 2nd in conference again this season (2nd to last is more feasible, in all honesty), as they return just 15% of their offense. This is a terrific final test for Iowa before they hit the conference part of their schedule. It’s not a gimmie by any stretch of the imagination, but I like Iowa in this game.
HAWKEYES ON TV
If you can’t get to Carver-Hawkeye Arena (or visiting arenas), here’s how you can still watch the Iowa Men’s Basketball team this season.
Nov 11 – Chi State
Nov 14 – NC AT
Nov 17 – NIU
Nov 23 – Campbell
Dec 3 – Brown
Nov 26 – IPFW
Dec 19 – Central Arkansas
Dec 22 – Boise State
Nov 20 – Creighton
Dec 17 – Drake
All conference games except Nebraska, Penn State, at Northwestern, at Penn State, Wisconsin, at Nebraska.
Both Nebraska games (ESPNU)
Both Penn State games (ESPNU)
At Northwestern (ESPNU)
Home vs Wisconsin (ESPN or ESPN2)
ISU game will be covered by the Cyclone Television Network.
UNI game will be covered by UNI’s network