Oct. 16, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
ROSEMONT, Ill. — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team finds itself in the middle of the preseason Big Ten Conference jumble.
The Hawkeyes are picked to finish seventh in a poll of 27 sports writers who cover the conference. Iowa was chosen as high as fourth and as low as 11th among the league’s 14 schools. In BTN.com media poll, Iowa was tabbed seventh with 101 points and was picked as high as fifth and as low as 10th.
Wisconsin was the unanimous Big Ten favorite. The Badgers are also fourth in the initial USA Today Coaches’ Poll and are one of six Big Ten teams in the rankings along with Michigan State (18) Ohio State 20, Nebraska (21), Michigan (23), and Iowa (25).
“It’s unpredictable this year, and it’s unpredictable every year, not only in our conference, but in college basketball, and in all sports,” said senior Aaron White on Wednesday at the Big Ten Basketball Media Day at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
“Everyone wants to crown Wisconsin because they went to the Final Four, and yes, they have a great team coming back, but you don’t know about Ohio State and Indiana with all their young guys, and we have an experienced team coming back.
“You never know how it’s going to play out; it all depends on how teams gel together.”
UI head coach Fran McCaffery has reason for optimism, as he returns a roster featuring seven upperclassmen and 10 returning lettermen.
“I feel good about the options we have,” said McCaffery. “One of the strengths of our team last year was our depth, and I feel the same about this year’s team. That’s why we’re optimistic.”
Following the graduation of second-round NBA draft pick Roy Devyn Marble, McCaffery says the leadership shifts to White, but it will be a committee that will replace Marble’s 560 points and 436 field goal attempts.
“Somebody else is going to have to step up and score those points,” said McCaffery. “We have a number of candidates, Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok at that position, but you’ll see a different Mike Gesell and a completely different Jarrod Uthoff. All those guys are gifted offensively.”
White believes the key to being an upper-echelon Big Ten team will come down to the team’s ability to turn its fortunes in close games. The Hawkeyes were 2-8 in games decided by five or fewer points last season.
“It comes down to 50-50 balls, long rebounds, loose balls, and defensive stops,” said White. “There is a reason they call them winning plays because that’s how you win games.”
In the Big Ten Conference, every game is a battle, regardless of where the teams sit in the standings. White is looking forward to seeing how the script plays out.
“It’s going to be exciting because there is a reason people have everyone jumbled up,” he said. “There are good teams from top to bottom in this league, so nobody knows what the season is going to entail. We’ll see how it turns out.”
The Hawkeyes host Northwood (Florida) in an exhibition contest Nov. 2 on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 2 p.m. (CT). Iowa opens the regular season against Hampton on Nov. 14 at 8:30 p.m.