Oct. 15, 2015
- Read the October issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By JAMES ALLAN
CHICAGO — Wait, the University of Iowa men’s basketball team has four starters (you could say five) returning and the Hawkeyes are flying under the radar?
Iowa is selected to finish ninth in BTN.com’s preseason predictions, which were released in conjunction with the 2015 Big Ten Basketball Media Day, being held Thursday at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare.
The Hawkeyes are picked behind four teams they finished ahead of last season in the regular season standings in Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Maryland is the preseason favorite.
“It seems to happen every year,” said senior Adam Woodbury. “Every year we’re getting better and every year we’re under the radar. We’re accepting of that and totally fine with that underdog role. We’ll see where it lands.”
All the Hawkeyes have done in the past three seasons is win games — 67 to be precise. Iowa has made three consecutive postseason appearances, climbing the ladder each step of the way. The program advanced to the NIT Championship game in 2013 before making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to the third round last season.
“I don’t know where we were picked last year, but we ended up being tied for third, and we lost some games we should have won,” said Woodbury. “It is what it is. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion; they can pick us where they want.
“Every year we’re getting better and every year we’re under the radar. We’re accepting of that and totally fine with that underdog role. We’ll see where it lands.”
Senior Adam Woodbury
“Those opinions don’t mean anything when we throw that ball up. It comes down to the five guys on the floor.”
Iowa’s first five can match up favorably with anyone in the Big Ten with four starters returning — five if you count senior Anthony Clemmons, who averaged 19.2 minutes last season. Senior Jarrod Uthoff, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, returns after averaging 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds last season.
Three-year starter Mike Gesell (7.1 points, 4.0 assists), Woodbury (6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds), and junior Peter Jok (7 points, 2.6 rebounds) are also back. Clemmons averaged 4.8 points and started 12 contests.
“When I look at our team, we have a lot of returners and experience,” said Gesell. “We have played in big games and know what it takes to win on the road. We have all the pieces to continue to make strikes and have an even better year than last year.”
The question for the Hawkeyes is the depth that follows. Clemmons aside, Iowa has 10 newcomers on its roster, including five true freshmen. Sophomore Dom Uhl played 33 games in a reserve role last season.
“(After the top five), everybody’s young with the exception of Dom Uhl,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “It will be a real challenge to get those young guys ready because in this league five guys isn’t enough, you need at least 10.”
Several newcomers have shown flashes, but McCaffery is looking for consistency.
“At the end of a couple days ago, I would have said Andrew Fleming and Ahmad Wagner (could have an immediate impact),” said McCaffery. “Then the next day, I would have said Dale Jones and Isaiah Moss. There hasn’t been consistency, and we have to be careful because I don’t know what you can expect.
“My experience has been, over time — and we don’t have a lot of time — but over 2-3 weeks, it will separate and you’ll find out which of the three or four guys will establish themselves.”
Clemmons sees a determined group, one that wants to learn and improve.
“That’s the best thing about this group, they want to get better,” he said of the newcomers. “Whenever you have that combination of hard work and wanting to be good, that brings a lot of success, too.”
That’s the key, having success and winning games.
“(Those preseason polls) never end up being right,” said Clemmons. “But it’s great motivation to our guys. We’re focusing on how we can be better this year. We have to stick to our main focus of the team.”