Imagine, if you will, that you are an ink-stained sports scribe for the Toledo Blade, or the Fort Wayne Gazette or the Peoria Journal. Your assignment is to predict which Big 10 basketball teams will finish where in what is likely to be the best conference in college basketball.
It’s a tough job, requiring you to weigh previous results, exiting and incoming personnel, recruiting rankings, coaching history and many other factors. But it’s a required exercise, and now the sorting begins.
Here is Team A’s blind resume to consider:
- · Previous year’s team finished tied for 4th in the conference race
- · Four of five starters return, though the lone exit was 1st team All-Big 10
- · Two of the returners were on the conference All-Freshman team
- · Team returns conference’s 6th Man of the Year
- · One of only 3 conference teams to post winning conference record each of past 5 seasons
- · Starting point guard was 1 of 2 freshman in college basketball with 175 assists and 84 3-pointers
- · Team returns 77.6 percent of its scoring
Sounds pretty good. This team is predicted to finish ……………………….
If you are an Iowa fan, you know that Team A is your beloved Hawkeyes. And if you have been following the preseason college basketball news, you will know that eighth is exactly where the Big 10 media predicted Iowa to finish the 2016-17 conference season.
If this doesn’t put a Rodney Dangerfield-sized chip of disrespect on every Hawkeye player’s shoulder, I can’t imagine what will.
I will go on record right now (seriously, print and save this column) saying if Iowa indeed finishes eighth or lower I will attend Iowa’s last home game in Carver Arena in a Nebraska cheerleader uniform and let Tom Kakert post a pic of it on this webpage. If Nebraska cheerleader uniforms come in that small of a size, that is.
Now I’m not saying that Iowa is a Final Four caliber juggernaut poised to rampage through a very deep, very talented Big 10. But with what it has coming back – and a relatively soft unbalanced conference schedule – it is extremely difficult for me to see any possible way they don’t crack the top five or six at worst.
Add in some eye-opening and unusually optimistic insider rumblings about the elevation of Tyler Cook’s game, Jordan Bohannon’s growth at the point and two big-bodied, big time freshman and the Hype Train might be taking on passengers early and often.
I write this with the full disclosure that I have done next to zero research on Iowa’s conference opponents. I am way too invested in this year’s football season to waste time perusing Wisconsin’s roster or Illinois’ incoming recruits. But I know a good basketball team when I see it, and Iowa is going to have a good basketball team this season.
And while we are feeding coal into the aforementioned Hype Train’s boiler, how can any Iowa basketball fan not be super stoked about Fran McCaffery’s recruiting? Two of his 2017 recruits – Connor McCaffery and Luka Garza are four star recruits and they will be combing with four star, #40 nationally ranked Joe Wieskamp in 2018. After that, more four star, Top 100 types are either committed or in the pipeline, giving Iowa fans more hope for the hoops future than they’ve seen in ages.
So I tell you Mr. Chicago Tribune, Mr. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Ms. Columbus Post-Dispatch know-it-alls: Don’t eat too much at your post-game spreads this season. Because Iowa is going to be serving a huge, heaping pile of crow to you come March.