Nov. 12, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There is no easing into the regular season for the No. 25 University of Iowa men’s basketball team. Not with a schedule that features three postseason teams to open the 2014-15 campaign.
The Hawkeyes begin play Friday, hosting Hampton in the opening game of the 2K Classic on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 8:32 p.m. (CT). Three days later, defending Summit League champion North Dakota State comes to town before the Hawkeyes head to Madison Square Garden for games against 10th-ranked Texas and either No. 23/24 Syracuse or California next week.
“There is no time to ease into anything or have a couple of games where you can get your feet wet,” said senior Aaron White. “It’s right into teams that have played in the tournament and teams that are ranked in the top-15 or top-20.
“We have to be ready to go today (for practice) and especially Friday when the games start.”
“There is no time to ease into anything or have a couple of games where you can get your feet wet. It’s right into teams that have played in the tournament and teams that are ranked in the top-15 or top-20. We have to be ready to go today (for practice) and especially Friday when the games start.”
UI senior Aaron White
The Pirates return four starters and 11 letterwinners from an 18-win team last season. Hampton played in the College Basketball Invitational a season ago, where it dropped a 69-65 game at Penn State in a first round contest.
“Hampton is expected to win more than 20 games this year, and they can contend for the MEAC championship,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said at a Wednesday news conference. “They’re quick, aggressive and experienced. This is a different kind of opener than a lot of people are going to play.”
The Bison, Iowa’s opponent on Nov. 17, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a season ago, downing fourth-seeded Oklahoma before falling to San Diego State for a right to move on to the Sweet 16. North Dakota State has two starters and five letterwinners returning for first-year head coach David Richman.
“When we agreed to play in the 2K Classic, we knew the field that ends up in New York is good, but the rest of the teams are good as well,” said McCaffery. “The guys coming in are not going to be intimidated by the atmosphere. They’re going to come in expecting to play well and have a good shot to win.”
In their only public exhibition, the Hawkeyes used a big second half to run away from Northwood (Florida) for a 92-51 victory Nov. 2. Junior Jarrod Uthoff says the performance opened his eyes to just how talented the 2014-15 team can be.
“The first half we got the kinks out and the rust off,” said Uthoff. “In the second half, we showed that we can play well. The potential of this team is unreal.”
White is eager to see how the minutes at the two guard position shake out with Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby, Peter Jok, and Mike Gesell all vying for playing time. Clemmons started the exhibition game, while Jok led the team with 16 points in 17 minutes. Gesell is the starter at the point guard spot, but will also see time at the two.
“I am interested to see what coach McCaffery does with it,” said White. “The good thing is they all have looked good. Some days Josh will be hot, some days Peter will be hot, and Clemmons has stepped up; I like his energy on the defensive end. Mike at the one or two is not a mistake maker and takes care of the ball.
“All four bring something different. I am interested to see the rotations.”
“It’s coming fast,” said White. “I am going to try to make it slow down and enjoy the experience.”