Oct. 13, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — If Fran McCaffery’s track record as a head coach is any indicator toward the future then the University of Iowa men’s basketball program is due to make a jump during the 2011-12 season.
In each of his three coaching stops, McCaffery’s teams showed growth from year one to year two. His Lehigh team went from 13-15 to 15-14; his UNC-Greensboro squad went from 15-13 to 19-12, which included an NCAA Tournament berth, and his Siena team went from 15-13 to 20-12.
After guiding Iowa to an 11-20 record in his first season in Iowa City, McCaffery is looking for the Hawkeyes to show a similar progression.
“I think we’ll be better,” said McCaffery on Thursday at the team’s annual media day in the Feller Club Room inside the Dale and Marilyn Howard Family Pavilion at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “How much better? It’s always a function of your key guys staying healthy.
“I think we need to get off to a good start, that’s going to be important. When you have senior guards, I think your expectations are going to be a little higher.”
The guards McCaffery is alluding to are three-year starter Matt Gatens and point guard Bryce Cartwright. Gatens led the team in scoring (12.6 points), steals (1.8) and was second in assists (1.8) as a junior, while Cartwright averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 assists.
“I think every team that competes in Division I expects to try to get to the NCAA Tournament at the start of the year. You’re going to have bumps in the road, but what you have to do is figure out a way to improve when you stumble. You’re not going to be perfect every not. If each individual gives you what he’s got and improves, which is what we’ve seen, then you’ve got a shot. That’s got to be our goal, and it’s our goal, and it has been our goal. We are going to make some noise when we get in there.”
UI head coach Fran McCaffery
“I feel like those two guys have to play like senior All-Big Ten caliber players, and they both can be” said McCaffery. “They have to be in contention for All-Big Ten honors.”
The second-year head coach is also looking for growth from his three-player sophomore class consisting of Melsahn Basabe, Roy Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe. The trio was one of the most productive freshman classes in school history.
“I think they are a very important piece this year,” said McCaffery. “Talking about Basabe, he established himself last year as one of the premier players in our league. He’s a player that I think is capable of averaging a double-double, which would be a big jump, as he’s got to go from seven to 10 rebounds per game.”
McCaffery changed Iowa’s style of play upon his arrival, going to an up-and-down the floor style. That isn’t going to change, but he wants his Hawkeyes to play even faster.
“We didn’t play as fast as I want to,” he said about last season. “I would like to go a little bit faster and press a little bit more. We have a few more bodies, and have some length, not only at the post, but on the wing.”
McCaffery doesn’t put a number on what he expects for a win-loss total out of his squad. He rates his team in terms of player development, competing under pressure and winning tight games. Iowa dropped seven games by five points or less in his first season, which included a five-point loss to second-ranked Ohio State (73-68) and a 62-59 overtime defeat to 13th-ranked Wisconsin.
“We lost a lot of games by five points or less and nobody talks about that,” said McCaffery. “That means we played well enough to win, but there’s a reason we didn’t win. Now we have to win and make 3-4 plays we didn’t make in those games last year, and then all of a sudden, all of those close games turn into wins instead of losses.
“Then you’re in the NCAA Tournament, not only are you improved, you are in the tournament because you’re winning a lot of those close games.”
That’s the clear goal for the 2011-12 Hawkeyes — to win enough games to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
“I think every team that competes in Division I expects to try to get to the NCAA Tournament at the start of the year. I don’t think anybody says, well, that’s not a realistic goal right now.
“You’re going to have bumps in the road, but what you have to do is figure out a way to improve when you stumble. You’re not going to be perfect every night. If each individual gives you what he’s got and improves, which is what we’ve seen, then you’ve got a shot.
“That’s got to be our goal, and it’s our goal, and it has been our goal. We are going to make some noise when we get in there.”
Iowa will host an open practice on Saturday on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 12:30 p.m. Fans will have an opportunity to win a variety of prizes at the event… click HERE for more information.