Point/Counterpoint: Will the Iowa men’s basketball team make the 2012 NCAA Tournament?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Call me a homer, but while the NCAA Tournament is underway, I can’t help but think to myself that despite being a long shot, the Hawkeyes could make it next year.

Under first-year coach Fran McCaffery, Iowa went 11-20, including just four wins in Big Ten play.
However, when I watched, I saw a young team that has the right pieces in place to make a serious run next year at the top half of the conference and get into the tournament — just as Penn State did this year.

Iowa hoops fans had a much greater presence this year in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and they are excited by the potential they see in this young, fast-break team.

Iowa has two key pieces in place in junior point guard Bryce Cartwright, who led the Big Ten in assists and really established himself as a crunch-time player throughout the season.

The other piece is “curiously spicy,” as announcer Gus Johnson referred to the one and only freshman Melsahn Basabe.

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The 6-7 Glen Cove, N.Y., native emerged as Iowa’s best player this year and showed fans what he was capable of on Jan. 4 against Ohio State. He became the first Big Ten player in more than 15 years to tally at least 20 points and 10 boards and record five blocks in a game.

He did this against fellow freshman phenom Jared Sullinger, who is the best player on the No. 1 team in the nation.

Realize he was doing this on raw talent and hustle plays, while toward the end of the year we saw him become more confident and develop his jump shot.

Imagine what he will become after an off-season in which he can hit the weights and work on his all-around game.

Iowa is only losing senior Jarryd Cole while adding talented wing player Josh Oglesby and big man Aaron White to the roster.

The Hawkeyes showed in year one under McCaffery they could compete in the Big Ten with a 20-point blowout over Michigan State and a 2-point victory over Purdue.

In year two, I expect the Hawkeyes to take a similar leap while Basabe and Cartwright establish themselves as two of the best players in the Big Ten and “White Magic” McCaffery steers the Hawkeyes toward their first tournament bid since 2006.

— by Ben Wolfson


The NCAA Tournament is looming in the Iowa basketball team’s near future — but the Hawkeyes won’t go dancing in 2012.

Iowa showed flashes of brilliance this season (see: the 20-point win over Michigan State and the 2-point shocker over Purdue), but wasn’t able to cobble those moments together into a consistent year. The result was an 11-20 final record.

Now, the team is definitely going to be better next year. The Hawkeyes only lose one starter to graduation, injured point guard Cully Payne will be back to shoulder some minutes and help keep Bryce Cartwright fresh, and Melsahn Basabe is like cheese — he’ll only get better with age. Throw in a couple promising recruits in Josh Oglesby and Aaron White, and a 15-to-20 win season and top-half conference finish is a very real possibility.

But that won’t be enough for the Black and Gold to sneak into the NCAA tourney.

No matter how much the field expands, the standard required to go dancing is extremely high. Look at the teams that barely made it in at all this year: Princeton, for example, won 25 games but needed a last-millisecond shot to punch its ticket. The Tigers proceeded to lose to fourth-seed Kentucky by a single basket, showing that even squads that squeak into the field must be able to hang with the big boys.

Iowa simply isn’t at that level yet, and it will take more than a single off-season to reach the necessary plateau. The Hawkeyes could see some postseason action next year, probably in the NIT, but the Big Dance is still a ways away.

Then again, given the state of my brackets, I’m clearly not qualified to pass judgment on college basketball teams. Anything is possible.

— by Seth Roberts

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