Schwartz Sunday Notes: Cook’s Return A Dose of Good News

June 3, 2018

Written by David Schwartz

Tyler Cook played it exactly right.

Cook, the leading scorer and rebounder last season for Iowa men’s hoops, pulled his name out of the NBA Draft last week and will return to the Hawkeyes for his junior season.

Good call. Cook can dominate stretches of Big Ten basketball, but his game is not NBA ready. Even players his size need to consistently be able to shoot from outside. He can’t do that. But we already knew that. We’ve known that for months, just as we’ve known that he has room to improve defensively.

Obviously, we wish Cook the best in his career. About a year from now, we’ll cross our fingers and hope he’s at the start of a decade-long NBA journey.

But from a selfish-perspective – a fan’s perspective – I’m glad he’ll be back in a Hawkeye uniform this fall. Iowa needs him.

If Fran McCaffery can figure out what went wrong last season, when the Hawkeyes finished 4-14 in the Big Ten – just one-game better than last-pace Rutgers – and if McCaffery can figure out how to effectively use Cook and Luka Garza at the same time, Iowa will be better.

The Hawkeyes aren’t better without Tyler Cook. They need Tyler Cook. Cook is more vital to the 2018-19 season than any incoming recruit, even Joe Wieskamp, who if he lives up to the billing will have an excellent career.

Part of me was worried Cook would succeed, that he’d impress NBA scouts enough during his workouts that he’d be lost to some level of professional basketball forever. Goodbye, Iowa.

That didn’t happen. Instead, he received something even more useful: feedback. That’s good for him, and if he takes the feedback to heart, it will be good for the Hawkeyes, too.

***

I was insulted (on Iowa’s behalf) last week when it was announced the Hawkeyes would play lowly Pitt in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

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Pitt finished dead last this past season in the ACC. And if that was not bad enough, they went 0-18 in the conference.

What an insult to the Hawkeyes to pair them against <i>that</i> team. The worst team.

But then I remembered.

Oh, right.

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The Hawkeyes were basically the Pitt of the Big Ten. Iowa-Pitt is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup that is happening for one reason and one reason only: contractual obligation.

It wouldn’t be fair to make some grand statement like Look How Far Iowa Has Fallen. Truth is, they had one really really really bad season. Truly awful. However, we don’t know whether 2017-18 was the start of a downward trend or an aberration, and we won’t know until the next season begins.

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge is a ratings gimmick, but it’s still a blow to the ego when Iowa gets slotted for the throwaway game. Whether it ultimately means anything remains to be seen.

***

The most hilarious college football news of the week was some coaches’ reactions to the NCAA’s new rule of no more than 20 coaches and staff being allowed to wear headsets on game days.

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Seriously, the reactions have been so over the top you’d think the NCAA had ordered players to stop wearing helmets.

“The 20 headset rule is a joke. … I think that’s got the ability to hurt our game,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.

“It’s kind of like mouse manure when you’re up to your ears in elephant doo,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Blah.

To steal a cliché, the outrage is so great because the stakes are so low. Alabama and Auburn will adjust. Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes will adjust.

An inconvenience for coaching staffs? Sure, why not. A death blow to college football? Hardly. It’s a skinned knee. Slap on a Band-Aid. Adjust. Move on.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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