Another week of Hawkeye sports in the books and once again plenty to talk about for Iowa fans following football, football recruiting, and basketball. We saw commitments flip in both directions, we saw a strong performance by the Iowa Basketball team in Des Moines, and the rumblings of coaching changes are in the air as we head to the holiday season.
1. I think Fran McCaffery is going to have his first 20 win season as the Hawkeyes head coach. Prior to the season I did a prediction piece here at HawkeyeReport.com and said I thought Iowa would finish the non-conference slate of games 11-2 or perhaps 10-3. After the win over UNI, it sure looks like 11-2 will be their record heading into the start of Big Ten play. Why do I think they will get to 20? I'm counting on sweeps of Penn State, Nebraska, and now Northwestern. The Wildcats lost star guard Drew Crawford this week for the season. I know Iowa hasn't had much success in Evanston, but the Cats are going to really struggle. Those wins alone put Iowa at 17 wins. Purdue isn't great this year and Iowa will likely beat them in Iowa City and maybe on the road. That puts them at 18. Given last year's success against ranked teams at home, McCaffery's squad will pick up a couple more victories and get to 20 or more.
2. Will that be enough to get Iowa into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006? I think they will be firmly on the bubble, unless they get to around 22 or 23 wins. I know a few fans are worried about the RPI and other rankings right now. I like to consult with what Ken Pomeroy does on his site, kenpom.com. He currently has Iowa at 53rd in the country and a strength of schedule at 297, which isn't great. Actually, it's kind of bad. Iowa played a similar non-conference schedule last year and thanks to the strength of the Big Ten, which is as strong this year as it was last year, Iowa finished with the 38th most difficult schedule in the country.
3. I think we saw a bit of a turning of the corner when it comes to the three point line on Saturday. I know a lot of fans were concerned about Iowa's struggles behind the arch, but as Fran McCaffery said after the win over UNI, the players are too good at shooting the ball to see these struggles continue. I think the one thing we will see is that this team can be streaky. I wrote about that last week and still believe it. Confidence can be contagious and when Mike Gesell knocked down his first three from the corner, you could see his confidence raised. When Devyn Marble knocked down a few three's in the first half, you had memories of his hot shooting in Oregon last year in the NIT. Josh Oglesby is still sitting around 32% from beyond the arch, but that's going to rise. Zach McCabe will see his numbers rise as well and Aaron White probably hit the biggest three of the afternoon late in the second half.
4. I think the biggest change we have seen this year is on the defensive end. It is still very much a work in progress and there were too many instances where Panther guards got to the rim with relative ease, but the Hawkeyes had seven blocks on Saturday and that's a growing trend. Opponents are shooting just over 38% from the field and only 28% from three point land. That's a great improvement over last year's numbers. Last year opponents shot almost 46% from the field and 34.5% from three.
5. I think roles have really become defined for this Iowa Basketball team. While there are quite a bit of options in the backcourt with Clemmons, Gesell, and Marble sharing the ball handling duties, the front court seems to be finding their roles. Aaron White and Adam Woodbury are comfortable starting. Zach McCabe, Eric May, and Melshan Basabe are embracing the bench mob role. Perhaps the best development for the Iowa team on Saturday other than breaking out of a bit of a shooting slump from the outside is the emergence of Gabe Olaseni. His numbers weren't crazy, 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 12 minutes, but he was really good in the first half and looked comfortable. Could be a real key moving forward this year.
6. I think some of the meltdowns over recruiting are overrated. I've always called recruiting soap operas for guys because of all the plot twists and turns heading towards signing day. Hint, I'm going to guess there will be more of them to come. No, I'm not hinting at some secret, it's just going to happen, it always does. Yeah, it hurts that Iowa lost four star prospect Delano Hill. The Iowa coaches invested a lot of time and effort into getting him, but let's face facts, he's a kid from Michigan, lives near Ann Arbor, has a close friend going there next year to play football, and he grew up rooting for the Wolverines. No one says to should feel good about losing him, but it's also hard to blame the coaches for it.
7. On the flip side, I think I like the potential of LeShun Daniels, who flipped from Boston College to Iowa this week. Iowa has done pretty well with bigger backs and Daniels is in that mold. At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, he's one big back, that's for sure. Power runner who likes to go north/south. One thing I do wonder about, is Daniels going to be Brad Rogers 2.0? They are similar size coming out of high school and the running style look a lot alike. Something to keep an eye on down the road.
8. Speaking of Brad Rogers, I think the rumblings of Mark Weisman potentially heading back to some sort of fullback duty make me worry about his health moving forward. Kirk Ferentz mentioned at one of his final meetings with the media that Rogers was probably going to have surgery due to back problems. That's not good. You certainly feel for a young guy like Rogers, who has already been through a lot on the injury front, including a long time on the sidelines due to a heart issue. Quality young man who is very likeable. I hope he can get healthy and make it back on the field for his senior season.
9. Speaking of running backs, I guess I should share a few thoughts on the departure of Greg Garmon from the Iowa program. As I mentioned in the Lounge when the news broke, I had received a note from someone close to the Iowa program the previous week that said Garmon had a bad habit of being late for workouts and meetings late in the season. My warning flag went up at that point and the news that he was leaving didn't come as a complete shock. However, it is disappointing to see a talented player leave a program that needs more talented players.
10. I think the weekend thoughts will be taking a brief hiatus next week. It's the holiday season and next weekend I'll be spending a little quality time with my wife, our kids, and her family celebrating Christmas in St. Louis. I know we all tend to get a little too worked up over trivial things like college athletics and this past Friday was a reminder that our families and time with them are much more important than the results of a football game, a head scratching decision by a coach, or an 18 year old changing his mind about what college he is going to attend. Enjoy some time with your family and friends and as always, thanks for being a part of our site and we appreciate your business. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and your family.