Every Hawkeye fan asks themselves the same question at the end of non-conference play each year. Were the Hawkeyes tested well enough for when conference play starts up? Last year a lot of people said no, it didn’t. So, the question is, is this year any different than last?
Well, if you first look at the roster the Hawkeyes are much more mature this year than last after only losing Eric May to graduation. Adding a few key pieces like Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok certainly help too.
The funny thing is, last year Iowa was 11-2 going into conference play. They’re also 11-2 this year. So, why is there so much more hype around this team this year opposed to last?
While Iowa’s non-conference schedule was pretty easy this year, it was much easier last year. The most notable game they played last year was against an unranked Wichita State team at a neutral site. Iowa lost that game by 12. Their most notable win came at home against an experienced Iowa State team that made the NCAA tournament. I would argue that this years Iowa State team is much better than lasts.
All-in-all the non-con was pretty pathetic last year.
Jumping ahead to this year.
Like I said earlier, Iowa is 11-2. They’ve had their fair share of games this year that were easy as pie, but then again they’ve had some tough ones. Teams like UNC-Wilmington and Abilene Christian don’t help your cause if you’re trying to build a resume.
Iowa has solid wins over a 9-3 Xavier and the Notre Dame Irish who had the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes beat just a couple days ago before Eric Atkins fouled out. After losing Jerian Grant for the rest of the season, the Irish won’t be heading places in the ACC.
Their two losses came against then unranked Villanova, they’re now #8 in the country, and then#17 Iowa State. Villanova came at a neutral site and the Hawkeyes fell to the Cyclones in Ames.
While the non-con is better than last year, it’s still not that impressive. So, here is the ultimate question. Are the Hawkeyes ready for the grind that is the Big Ten conference schedule?
Aside from some slow starts and some turnover problems, I’ve seen enough from the 22nd ranked Hawkeyes that tells me they’re ready for conference play.
Where I really saw it was in the game against Iowa State. Sure they were unable to hold on to the lead they possessed for most of the game, but that’s a really tough place to go in and win. Having experienced a game in that type of environment will definitely help going into conference play.
They’ve shown the ability to battle and that’s always a good sign if you’re a coach, fan, or player. The Notre Dame game is a great example of that. Notre Dame hit Iowa with a sucker punch coming out of the locker room in the second half and Iowa did a great job of responding. The only thing that worries me is, if that happens again, Devyn Marble can’t be the only one stepping up. It’s got to be a team effort.
Bottom line is, Iowa is a mature basketball team that has been through it already. Of the 11 that will play for coach Fran McCaffery in conference play, Jok and Uthoff are the only ones that really don’t know what to expect and who knows how much floor time Jok will see. Other than that, all other 9 Hawkeyes have been through the grind.
Expect big things from the Hawkeyes this winter and into the spring.