Oct. 27, 2011
- Purchase Iowa Men’s Basketball Tickets
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone app!
- Take the Hawkeyes With You: Iowa Podcasts
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
CHICAGO — Head coach Fran McCaffery thinks his 2011-12 University of Iowa men’s basketball team will be much improved, but that still doesn’t make the road in the rough and tumble Big Ten Conference any easier.
Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State were announced as the top-three teams in the preseason standings Thursday at the Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago. The Buckeyes’ Jared Sullinger was tabbed as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year.
The conference only lists the top three teams in the preseason poll, but the Hawkeyes have something to prove wrong after being tabbed to finish 10th in the 12-team league in the unofficial poll of the league’s media.
“It’s a tremendous motivation,” said senior guard Bryce Cartwright. “We’re going to be under the radar and nobody really expects much of us, but we expect a lot from ourselves. We’re ready to surprise some people.”
McCaffery, entering his second season as the head coach at Iowa, points to an experienced roster in his second go round as a reason for optimism. The Hawkeyes return a senior duo in the backcourt in Cartwright and Matt Gatens, while having a total of 11 letterwinners back in the fold.
“We had some highlights, we had some lowlights last year, but what we did was improve,” said McCaffery. “Now they (the players) understand what we’re doing, and I think when you look at the fact that we have so much experience back and an excellent recruiting class, I feel very strongly that we’re going to be much improved.”
Prior to the start of the first official practice, Iowa already was dealing with the injury bug. Senior Andrew Brommer went down with a knee sprain, and freshman Aaron White had a sprained thumb. White has since returned to practice, and Brommer is on the mend, but a third injury to sophomore Roy Devyn Marble is a cause for greater concern.
“He suffered a concussion about the third or fourth day of practice, and he has been out since then,” said McCafffery. “That’s something that is much more scrutinized than it ever was before. He looks fine, he says he feels fine, but there’s a variety of test he has to pass that aren’t going as well.”
Cartwright and Gatens know that having an experienced, senior-laden back court can be the difference in winning or losing close games. Last season, the Hawkeyes dropped seven games by five points or less, and Cartwright knows the team must learn from those results.
“We’ve been in games and lost a lot of the close ones,” said Cartwright, who led the Big Ten in assists in conference games as a junior. “The difference between this year and last year is the three point losses will turn into three point wins.
“That’s the difference between getting to the NCAA Tournament. Winning games is the key to everything.”
Cartwright says the time is now for he and his senior counterparts.
“We haven’t been to the tournament, and we want to achieve that feat before our college careers are up,” he said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.”