McCaffery and Co. will put on their first display


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Fans have waited since March to see Fran McCaffery's first game as the Iowa head coach, but the Nov. 7 exhibition against Illinois-Springfield probably won't be an accurate representation of this rebuilt Iowa men's basketball team.

For one, two of the team's best players will probably be out.

Last year's leading scorer Matt Gatens tore a tendon in his hand last week in practice, and he won't get the word on clearance to play until Nov. 10. For now, the Iowa City native plans to be on the court for Iowa's Nov. 14 season-opener against South Dakota State.

"My goal definitely now is to play in that first [non-exhibition] game," he said. "But if the doctor says I can't, I can't."

Couple that injury with a foot problem bothering this year's only senior, Jarryd Cole, which will have him see little — if any — action Nov. 7, and the prospective starting lineup for McCaffery's highly anticipated first display has only two returning starters.

Yet, with a lineup that has two freshmen in Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe and a plethora of other guys who haven't played a minute of Division-I basketball, the loss of Cole and Gatens for a single exhibition may not be all bad.

"I don't think it's that big of a negative because the other guys are getting all the reps now," McCaffery said. "[But] big picture for us to be competitive with the schedule in front of us, we need those two guys in the lineup."

Really, everyone on the team needs work with a brand-new system being installed. McCaffery has been touted for his up-tempo style that is supposed to be drastically different from former coach Todd Lickliter's tedious half-court offense.

Practices up to this point have been about implementing that offense and changing mentalities. The coach's biggest concerns right now are one-on-one guard defense, and decision making on the fast break. While McCaffery has been "not unhappy" with the choices his players are making in practice, it's something that will continue to progress.

"We've got work to do there," he said. "[But] they're trying. They're not just flying down the court and doing things that are out of character for each individual."

But again, on Nov. 7, the new coach won't show even half the tricks in his well-pressed sleeves.

While it provides a good chance to work on some plays and defenses, exhibitions against a team such as the Division-II Prairie Stars are more of a trap that could let another team get video or info about a team.

Don't expect McCaffery to let all the dogs off the leash — hence the conservative returns from injury for Gatens and Cole.

Nonetheless, this will be the first chance for fans to see McCaffery and the new-look Hawkeyes.
And while expectations may be that Iowa won't even get into a half-court set, sophomore guard Eric May, who is one of the two probable starters who has played a game for Iowa, calmed down the hyperbole about the team's style.

"It's going to be fast-paced," he said. "Hopefully, there will be some alley-oops, but it's not going to be a Harlem Globetrotters [offense] … it's going to be a focused fast-break-type offense."

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