And we made it. All 10 Big Ten teams besides Michigan previewed before we even get to exhibition games. Scott Miller, of the Daily Iowan, graciously agreed to take time away from an exciting football season to talk Hawkeye hoops. Now that we are done with the rest of the conference, I want to take the time to thank all the writers who contributed. I’ll put together a summary post reviewing all the previews (and their wonderful optimism) later this wekk.
By my eyes, Iowa looks like they are headed to a dreadful season. Are there any reasons for optimism?
Not too many by my estimation. Head coach Todd Lickliter seems to like his returning nucleus of Matt Gatens, Jarryd Cole, Anthony Tucker, Devan Bawinkel, and Aaron Fuller, but beyond that, the team lacks a lot of depth. When you lose your leading scorer, assist man, and rebounder to either transfer or graduation, it’s never a good sign for the next year.
Jake Kelly is one of the many players who left the Iowa program this off-season
Can you go over the transfers and graduations from last year’s team?
It was confusing for me, too. Jake Kelly (leading scorer), Jeff Peterson (leading assist man), Jermain Davis, and David Palmer all transferred from the program a few weeks after the team’s embarrassing performance in the Big Ten Tournament. Cyrus Tate (leading rebounder) graduated, along with J.R. Angle, who was a non-factor during his career in Iowa City.
How about incoming freshmen?
The transfers forced Lickliter to pick up a few last-minute prospects in the recruiting process. Point guard Cully Payne committed to the Hawkeyes in early April, giving the team a viable replacement for Peterson, who transferred to Arkansas. In-state prospects Eric May and Brennan Cougill give the Hawkeyes another perimeter threat (May) and a much-needed big on the inside (Cougill). The last signing was from Devon Archie, a 6-9 junior-college prospect who could see minutes early in the rotation up front.
Anthony Tucker’s freshmen year wasn’t very smooth, but he definitely demonstrated his talent. What kind of role is he expected to play this year?
All indications are that the coaches are planning on Tucker having a big impact this year. Last season, he displayed his 3-point shooting, but faltered off the court with academics and some disciplinary issues. If the Hawkeyes have any chance of getting out of the Big Ten’s basement, they need a big year from Tucker. His versatility on the perimeter (he can play point and shooting guard) gives Lickliter a lot of flexibility in his lineups.
Is Matt Gatens the best shooter in the Big Ten?
I think he his, but then again, I thought he was the best freshman in the Big Ten last year. He’s almost automatic from the free throw line, and if he gets an open look, it’s as good as in. I would love to see what he could do with some true talent around him, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen — at least this year.
If I had to guess: PG Tucker, SG Gatens, SF Fuller, PF Cole, C Cougill, with Bawinkel, May, and Payne being the first three off the bench. The Hawkeyes’ biggest problem right now is inside. They simply don’t have the size to compete with the Michigan State’s of the world. But Lickliter’s system is predicated on outside shooting, and he looks to have that area covered with Gatens, Tucker, May, and Bawinkel.
Aaron Fuller, a former Michigan recruit, will look to take on an bigger role this year
Besides Tucker and Gatens, who else is waiting in the wings to become a major contributor?
Fuller supposedly had a really good summer, adding a lot of bulk to his frame. I would look for him to breakout this year, if he was able to improve his outside shot. Defensively, he shouldn’t get pushed around as much as he did last year.
Any non-conference games or tournaments of note?
They play Texas in the CBE Classic in Kansas City, which has the makings of a 30-point game. What I find interesting is that three of their marquee home games — Purdue (Dec. 29), Minnesota (Jan. 2), and Michigan State (Jan. 9) — are all over winter break, when many students will be back home. That’s not very smart for a program with fledgling student support after back-to-back lackluster years.
Most feared player in the Big Ten?
I would have to say Manny Harris. I know he didn’t play great against Iowa in the regular season, but his performance against the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten tournament was spectacular. At 6-5, he’s a real matchup problem. The Gatens-Harris matchup will be something to watch in the year’s contest.
Predicted record (conference and overall)
I’ll say 13-18 (5-13). They could lose all three in-state rival games (at Iowa State, at Northern Iowa, and home against Drake), and the conference slate isn’t looking favorable, either.
Any last words?
It’s going to be a long season in Iowa City, but as long as the football team keeps winning, the basketball team’s struggles will continued to get buried.