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Howe’s Friday 5: Hawkeye Hoop Injuries, Wrestling Rising, Black Friday Feast

November 28, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – We’ve reached the finish line of the football regular season. That went fast.

Now we wait for the bowl destination and begin thinking about Iowa’s chances at winning a Big Ten West Division title for the first time since 2015. The men’s basketball team is competing in Las Vegas and the women in Puerto Rico. Wrestling welcomes in Wisconsin for a dual on Sunday night.

We have plenty to talk about in this week’s 5:

5. For the second week in a row, I’m writing about health issues for the men’s basketball team in this space. This time it’s Jack Nunge and Jordan Bohannon joining the sidelined Patrick McCaffery.

Nunge tore his ACL in Sunday’s win against Cal Poly. The injury came after he red shirted last year in order to add strength and sharpen his skills. And he looked much more capable early this season.

As big of a blow as it is to the team, it’s awful for Nunge. The Indiana product essentially will be out for two seasons in a row. That’s rough on any competitor.

After playing in the team’s first four games, Bohannon sat out the Cal Poly contest with what the team announced as soreness in his hip. He underwent surgery in May and has said this fall that he’s just taking this season game by game.

The senior from Marion can compete in 10 contests during the first half of this campaign and still red shirt. At this point, I would be more surprised if he pushes through ’19-20 than if he shuts it down.

McCaffery missed his second game in a row Sunday with residual effects from the cancer he kicked when he was in junior high. Doctors and nutritionists have been working to the freshman forward right, but he also could end up red shirting.

4. We’ll get an idea of how the Hawkeyes proceed without the sidelined players Thursday night when they face No. 12 and national runner-up Texas Tech in Las Vegas. The winner plays the survivor of Creighton and San Diego State Friday with the losers also meeting that day.

Options are available for coach Fran McCaffery. He can stay big by moving Ryan Kriener into Nunge’s starting power forward spot. He might go slightly smaller with Cordell Pemsl at the four. He could slide Joe Wieskamp there and go even smaller.

It could depend on the opposition. Iowa can adjust to what it’s doing, and McCaffery can play the hot hands.

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I kind of like the lineup of Joe Toussaint, Connor McCaffery, CJ Fredrick, Wieskamp and Luka Garza. Assuming Bohannon taps out, and Patrick McCaffery takes a red shirt, that would leave versatile Bakari Evelyn as a backcourt sub with Pemsl and Kriener coming off the bench for the frontcourt.

3. Following a close call in last season’s 19-18 victory against Iowa State, we wondered what we would see when Iowa wrestling traveled to Ames for Sunday’s rematch. We witnessed the Hawkeyes defeating its cross-state rival for a 16th time in a row. And it wasn’t close.

Iowa captured all but one match in the dual, rolling to a 29-6 victory. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the meet came at 184 pounds, where unranked Nelson Brands decisioned No. 7 Sam Colbray of Iowa State, 4-3 in overtime.

Some people who know a lot more about this sport than do I believe the Hawkeyes might still be a year away from overtaking the Penn State dynasty. There are signs of hope that it could come sooner.

The top-ranked Nittany Lions lost at Arizona State last week, moving Iowa up to No. 1 in the NWCA Division I Coaches Poll released on Tuesday. It last appeared in the top spot on Feb. 17 of ’15.

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Of course there’s a long way to go until the nationals March 19-21 in Minneapolis. But it’s already apparent that the Hawkeyes are a serious threat to win it all.

We’ll get more evidence to that effect on Sunday night when they play host to No. 6 Wisconsin.

2. Your Black Friday will be completely clear for shopping the next two years. You have former Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst for getting the ball rolling on that. He’s also known for sticking his foot in his mouth after the last time the Huskers beat Iowa, basically saying the victory wasn’t significant because the Hawkeyes were beneath them.

Anyway, his replacement, Bill Moos, worked with Iowa AD Gary Barta in getting the Black Friday game back in ’22. The Hawkeyes are scheduled to play Wisconsin in the regular-season finale on Saturday the next two years with Nebraska facing Minnesota.

As much as I don’t like driving to Lincoln every other year on the day after Thanksgiving, it’s a shame the Black Friday matchup is going on hiatus. The programs are building a rivalry and having that window to themselves away from Ohio State-Michigan helped feed it. It’s especially important at Nebraska, where it’s been a tradition for 30 years with previous matchups against Oklahoma and Colorado.

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There’s a reason Eichorst is working in a smaller role at Texas these days. He’s far away from the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry and unable to inflict further damage to it.

1. Thank you Collin Miller for providing us with some color and honesty this week.

“Those guys don’t really like us. You don’t like anybody that’s in the Big Ten. Years and years, we haven’t liked them. They haven’t liked us too much. We haven’t won in a couple of years. We just want to bring that back and show everybody Nebraska’s back here against Iowa and that we’re here to stay,” the Nebraska linebacker said on Monday.

The rest of the principles competing in Friday’s game towed the company line. Not Miller. He spoke from the heart about an opponent that’s beat his outfit four years in a row.

“It’s definitely on our minds. It sucks. Those guys not respecting us. The come into Lincoln and think that they can win this with ease and that this isn’t even a rivalry. It hurts, but we just use that as momentum. The guys are really focused in, dialed in. This is a big week. We really want to show everybody that we’re here,” Miller said.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and his players weren’t sure where Miller came up with his feeling that the Hawkeyes don’t respect Nebraska. They held their first media availability Tuesday, a day after he started it, so maybe it spawned from past meetings.

“We can’t control what they think, what they say,” Iowa linebacker Kristian Welch said. “We’re just focused on ourself and how we can continue to play better.”

In the famous words of boxing referee Mills Lane, Let’s Get it On!

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