Hawkeyes Get Third Shot at Michigan

March 9, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Eric May insists that the University of Iowa men’s basketball team hasn’t designated a motto for Thursday’s Big Ten Conference tournament-opening game against Michigan.

But the member of the league’s all-freshman team was in agreement with teammates Jarryd Cole and Matt Gatens that the “third time’s a charm.”

“This will be the third time this year and the third time in a row playing them in the first round over there (in Indianapolis),” Gatens said. “We felt like we kind of gave one away here, so we have a lot of motivation going into a game like this.”

Michigan has won six of the last seven meetings between the teams after winning 60-46 in Ann Arbor on Jan. 30 and 80-78 in overtime in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 16. The Wolverines have also ousted Iowa in the first round of the last two Big Ten tournaments: 55-47 in 2008 and 73-45 last season.

“Third time’s a charm,” Cole said. “This group we have right now wants to go out and have an impact on the tournament and see if we can do that four games in four days thing and go to the big (NCAA) tournament.”

Iowa enters the contest as the No. 9 seed with a record of 10-21 overall, 4-14 in the Big Ten. Michigan, the No. 8 seed, is 14-16, 7-11.

“We’re looking forward to going over there and playing. It’s a great venue and a great tournament,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said Tuesday at a gathering of media inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “You have to be on top of your game in this tournament regardless and we’ll need to be against Michigan.”

The Hawkeyes and Wolverines open the 10-game tournament in Conseco Fieldhouse with a 1:30 p.m. (Iowa time) tipoff. For Iowa to win the title, it needs to defeat Michigan, Ohio State (Friday), the winner of Wisconsin/Illinois (Saturday) and then the title game (Sunday).

The Hawkeyes have been overwhelmed in their last two road outings, falling 88-53 at Minnesota and 67-40 at Wisconsin. Lickliter said this group of Hawkeyes has the make-up to respond.

“They’re probably mature beyond their years in that regard,” Lickliter said. “Being able to bounce back and knowing they can’t do anything about the past, but they can concentrate on the immediate. They’ve been good on that and obviously they have great respect for Michigan, so that will get our attention. I think they’ll prepare well.”

Top make noise in Indianapolis, the Hawkeyes will have to bring their “A game.” A large portion of Tuesday’s media conference was spent talking about the youth of this team and the future of Hawkeye basketball. Iowa is expected to start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior against Michigan.

“I asked my wife how prepared she would have been if she was admitted to school if you had to take fourth-year courses immediately,” Lickliter said. “How tough would that have been? I’m likening that to coming in as a freshman and playing in the Big Ten. It’s hard to go to fourth-year classes in the way you have to learn and how you have to grow. I think we fail to see how demanding it is sometimes and understand there is that progression. These guys are going to be very, very good players but there’s a natural progression to this. I’m pretty demanding on the guys because I have to get them to be A students.”

In no way did Lickliter hint at turning the page on the 2009-10 season.

“I always go into every game thinking we’ll put together a game plan and we’ll win,” Lickliter said.

Lickliter was asked if the Hawkeyes would continue to have team practices throughout the NCAA tournament.

“You’re assuming we won’t be playing,” Lickliter said. “It’s hard for me to ever assume that. It’s really hard.”