Point/counterpoint: Will the men's basketball team win four conference games?

BY DI STAFF | DECEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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More than four

Fear not, Hawkeye fans: The men's basketball team has only a 5-5 record to start the season, but there are reasons to be positive.

Maybe I've been sipping on too much of White Magic's Kool-Aid, but this team has the ability to accomplish something the football team couldn't — it will win at least five games in conference play.

Devyn Marble has continued to evolve in his second season as a Hawkeye. Marble has established himself as Iowa's best player this season, as was seen when the silky-smooth scorer from Southfield, Mich., erupted for 21 points and 5 assists against the Cyclones.

Fans have to be encouraged by Marble's attitude. Down big at Iowa State, the sophomore helped lead Iowa back into the game.

Looking at the Big Ten schedule, the Hawkeyes get Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Penn State, Indiana, and Northwestern at home.

Let's look at games that Iowa should win.

The first is Nebraska. Who knew the Cornhuskers even had a basketball team?

Second, Iowa can split the season series with Minnesota and Wisconsin by beating both of them in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Minnesota is hurting with forward Trevor Mbakwe out for the season, and Iowa tends to play Wisconsin well; the Hawkeyes took the Badgers to overtime in Carver-Hawkeye last year and would have won if not for some Jordan Taylor magic.

Penn State is garbage, and Purdue isn't as good as it has been in the past.

The Hawkeyes are capable of pulling off an upset over Michigan, Indiana, or Ohio State, as evidenced by their Senior Day victory last year over then-No. 6 Purdue.

Iowa is 5-5 despite having last year's best players — forward Melsahn Basabe and point guard Bryce Cartwright — be almost invisible.

Those two players are bound to pick it up soon (I hope), and freshman sniper Josh Oglesby gives McCaffery's team a nice group of weapons.

Stay patient, Iowa hoops fans. This team is better than it has been playing recently.

— by Ben Wolfson

Less than four

Despite another year of experience under head coach Fran McCaffery's system, the Iowa men's basketball team won't be able to eclipse last year's total of four Big Ten wins. The main reason for this is the strength of the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is arguably the best men's basketball conference in the country. In CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's most recent projection, nine Big Ten teams will qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The sheer depth of the league will make it very difficult to get five conference wins, which would be more than the football team's four.

Of the Hawkeyes' five wins, only Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne is ranked in the nation's top 250 by RealTimeRPI. The Mastadons sit at No. 160.

McCaffery's squad — ranked 191st in the country by RealTimeRPI — has lost every time it has been tested and by at least 10 points. Teams such as Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin will be tests the Hawkeyes just can't pass, especially on the road.

The only place in the Big Ten in which Iowa has won a road game in the past two years has been at Indiana, and judging from the Hoosiers' victory over Kentucky on Dec. 10, that team is unlikely to let the Hawkeyes win in Assembly Hall for the third year in a row. Iowa's best chances for a road win this season may come on Feb. 16 against Penn State or on Feb. 29 at Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes play both the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers twice, but at least one of those teams will take a game from the Hawkeyes — if not both. Even if Iowa upsets a team at home, like last year's victories over Purdue and Michigan State, it would still leave the team short of five conference wins.

Four conference wins may be enough to keep the Hawkeyes out of last place in the conference, but it would not be enough to top the football team's four-win total.

— by Ryan Murphy

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