Iowa has a lot of talent, but a lot of people are overlooking the Hawkeyes. Despite losing do-everything forward Aaron White, Iowa has enough pieces to be a contender in the Big Ten. And with the schedule that they have, the Hawkeyes will have quite a few chances to get high-quality non-conference wins. Let's take a look at what should be Iowa's three most important non-conference games.
#1. at Marquette
Marquette is not an especially formidable opponent, but the Golden Eagles should be much improved under second-year coach Steve Wojciechowski. Since this game is going to be so early in the season, it will help serve as a barometer for the Hawkeyes and undoubtably will answer some questions. The foremost of those are: is Peter Jok ready to take on an expanded role? Can Adam Woodbury effectively deal with high-quality centers like Luke Fischer? Marquette and Iowa are both flying under the radar in their respective conferences, and this should be a good chance for Iowa to get an early win against a major-conference foe.
#2. AdvoCare Invitational
I realize that this is a tournament and not a single game, but it's also my arbitrary list, so I'm going to use it anyway. Formerly the Old Spice Classic, the AdvoCare Invitational is an event that promises to be far more exciting than its name (which isn't saying much, but still). It's actually a pretty impressive field, headlined by Wichita State, Notre Dame, Xavier, and Dayton. If the Hawkeyes keep winning, they would face Dayton first and then likely Notre Dame and Wichita State.
All 3 of those games would be fantastic opportunities for quality non-conference wins. No one is expecting Iowa to win the whole thing, and a lot of prognosticators don't even think Iowa can make it past Dayton. But expect the Hawkeyes to surprise a lot of people with a strong showing at a tournament that's name sounds like it should be a lower-tier bowl game. Jarrod Uthoff and Woodbury should be able to dominate the interior, as most of teams in this tournament are very perimeter-oriented.
#3. at Iowa State
Recently, this in-state battle has been pretty one-sided. Iowa State has won five of the last six meetings of this annual rivalry game. And this iteration of Iowa State will make it extremely difficult for the Hawkeyes to break that streak. Although Coach Fred Hoiberg bolted to coach the Chicago Bulls, the Cyclones are still national championship contenders. Former Murray State head man Steve Prohm has an impressive resume, and shouldn't be too much of a downgrade.
The Cyclones are absolutely loaded from top to bottom. Georges Niang is a stud, and whoever McCaffery assigns to guard him will have a very tough time. The Hawkeyes also have to worry about slowing down returning players like Naz Long, Monte Morris, and Jameel McKay. And even though Hoiberg is gone, the Cyclones still have yet another group of talented transfers, headlined by former Marquette guard Deonte Burton.
This is far and away the biggest non-conference test for Iowa, and the rivalry only increases the game's importance.