The Sporting Discourse: Iowa basketball could have same success as football in 2011

BY IAN MARTIN | MAY 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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Cross-sport comparisons are tough, but there's no debate that for the last four seasons, Iowa football has done better than men's basketball.

Basketball has had zero winning seasons in its past four, whereas football has had zero losing seasons — with a 6-6 2007 record its worst during that time period.

So there's no way basketball will have a better winning percentage than its Kinnick counterpart in 2011-12, right? It's hard to fathom.

Maybe it's because football has had a combined 19-7 record over the past two years compared to basketball's 21-42 mark, or maybe it's because an entire four-year undergraduate student body hasn't seen a winning basketball team.

But a shift may be afoot.

This is not to say that football will become the new basketball, or that Iowa basketball is about to become a Big Ten powerhouse. But at least for next season, the expectations should be similar.

Football's down year — which would be considered a .500 record or slightly higher — would be considered an "up year" for basketball, especially after four-straight losing seasons. And for both teams, this is possible.

Let's start on Melrose Avenue, where a new — albeit likely solid — quarterback will start. Also, many units lost their best players to graduation, with the defensive line losing Adrian Clayborn, the receivers losing Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, and the linebackers losing both Jeff Tarpinian and Jeremiah Hunter. Don't forget Ryan Donahue at punter, possibly the best player in the country at a very undervalued position. So a lot of former role players now become the best player on the (fill in the blank with an Iowa unit), and the expectations just can't be as high as last season or the season before.

Meanwhile at Carver-Hawkeye, Fran McCaffery undeniably has the team going the right way. The cagers only lost Jarryd Cole, not much of a factor by his senior season after an injury-riddled career, and the team was young last season. With another batch of recruits, and the inevitable improvement of Melsahn Basabe and Bryce Cartwright, I'd be shocked if Iowa posts a record worse than .500.

Another factor is the Big Ten in both squad's respective sports.

Basketball will be down from the juggernaut it was this season, especially Purdue at the top. Add in Nebraska — a usual bottom-of-the-Big 12 team — along with a lot of mediocre Big Ten teams also on the down such as Penn State, Minnesota, and Northwestern, and a move to fifth or sixth place in the conference isn't inconceivable for McCaffery.

Now, the only reason I'm not saying this will definitively happen is the football schedule. Like many seasons in which Iowa isn't expected to do well, it honestly wouldn't shock me — and probably a lot of Hawkeye fans — if the team went 9-3 with an Outback Bowl or Capital One Bowl berth. Ferentz's squad has only one really tough away game on paper — the "Farmageddon" contest at Nebraska on Nov. 25. The team's other two trying conference contests will be at home, with dates against Northwestern and Michigan State about a month apart.

As usual with football, neither 6-6 nor 10-2 would surprise anyone. But with basketball, don't say there wasn't warning when the hoops team performs up to the level of football next season.

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