I’ve studied Iowa’s basketball schedule more than any human ought to before the calendar hits November. Can you blame me? Kirk Ferentz has practically kicked all of us once-again supporters off his lawn while screaming “That’s FOOTBALL!” in our faces as we mope away. The Chicago Bears have a quarterback controversy between two 30-something year old average (at best) quarterbacks; even though our new/young GM says he values that position the most.
And on top of all of that, Gabrielle Union is trying to start Twitter wars with Bulls fans about Dwayne Wade’s three point shooting prestige.
WHY DO WE EVEN SPORTS?
Right now, Iowa basketball is the one thing that is still a complete unknown (the Bulls will forever be in basketball purgatory, no matter how many Wade three pointers go in). While I’m sure many of you think that this upcoming Hawkeye hoops season is destined to disappoint —which we’ll get into after the schedule break down — I think we can all agree that at the very least, we are going to witness some exciting, athletic basketball.
Let’s dive in.
Just when I thought that Iowa couldn’t beat out last years non-con schedule (A great non-con is something new for Iowa. Do any of you out there remember their schedule in 2013? WOOF!), they go out and put together this years schedule. This athletic squad is going to be faced with some early tests that should prepare them somewhat well for the Big Ten schedule with match-ups against Seton Hall in the Gavitt Games, Virginia and either Providence or Memphis in the Emerald Coast Classic, at Notre Dame in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Iowa State in the annual Cy-Hawk Series and Northern Iowa in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic.
Not bad from a viewers stand point, right? That’s six tournament teams from last year on the slate, two of which will be in Iowa City and the third will be in Des Moines.
Throw in home games against Kennesaw State, Savannah State, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Omaha, Stetson, North Dakota and Delaware State and Iowa has a very real chance at turning some heads.
Remember, last year they finished the non-conference slate 9-3. I think there is a very real chance they can tie or eclipse that mark to start the season.
The Big Ten Conference
First and foremost, let me take this brief moment to thank the powers that be for giving Iowa the luxury of playing Illinois (12th in the Big Ten in 2016), Nebraska (11th in the Big Ten in 2016) and Rutgers (last in the Big Ten in 2016) twice along with Purdue and Maryland.
I really like Iowa’s odds to eek out five-or-six conference wins against that list of two timers.
That means Iowa more than likely needs another six or seven wins against Michigan (at home on News Years day), at Northwestern, Ohio State, at Minnesota, at Michigan State, Indiana, at Wisconsin and finishes of the season with Penn State making a trip to Iowa City.
I’m not going to lie, that’s going to be a tall order. Each and every one of those teams — beside perhaps Minnesota — should be on par or better than last year. I expect Thad Matta to get Ohio State back into the upper tier of the Big Ten this year, Tom Izzo is Tom Izzo and Sparty is Sparty, Penn State is going to be equally as young and talented as Iowa and Michigan is always dangerous.
Admittedly, I’ve been extremely high on the potential floor/ceiling for this Iowa team (you know, if everything falls in order). But after looking up and down this schedule for way too long, it’s obvious that Fran McCaffery is going to have to get his team to play well beyond their years if they are hoping for another NCAA Tournament bid to be in the cards.
It’s going to be a crash course in how to’s. Can they jump on teams early? Will they be able to close them out? There is little question in my mind that they have more than enough talent to surprise us but this schedule isn’t going to do them any favors.
But like my old high school basketball coach used to say, “Going up against the best possible talent on a nightly basis will show you how good you really are.”
We’ll soon see.