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Point/Counterpoint: Is the season a disappointment if Iowa doesn't make it to the NCAA tourney?

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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Yes

If the Hawkeyes fail to make the NCAA tournament, this season will be a series of disheartening “what ifs.”

The Big Ten is arguably the best college basketball conference in the nation, and any team that has a .500 record or better in conference with a strong non-conference record has a strong chance of making the tournament. Even without wins against Wichita State and Virginia Tech, Iowa went 11-2 in nonconference games. Let’s say Iowa goes 9-9 in conference — that wiykd be 20 wins and .500 in the Big Ten, an essential lock. But now, the idea of March Madness looks more bleak than realistic.

Iowa has had chances late in games against Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, and most recently, Minnesota. In fact, according to stat guru Ken Pomeroy, Iowa had a 73 percent chance of winning the game with a minute left. Three of those games were against top-25 opponents, but alas, Iowa is 0-5 versus AP top-25 teams this year.

At this point in the season last year, Iowa had two wins against ranked foes. With only two more games against teams currently ranked, Iowa is running out of chances for a signature win.

Head coach Fran McCaffery is in his third year at Iowa, and if his track record is any indication, Iowa should make the Big Dance in March. In his previous head coaching jobs at Lehigh, North Carolina-Greensboro, and Siena, McCaffery has led those teams into March Madness in his third season.

Those appearances are from conferences that are traditionally one-team leagues. All that’s realistically needed in this year’s Big Ten climate is to be in the top seven of the league, but currently the Hawkeyes sit ninth.

This team isn’t quite “there” yet. Maybe that’s OK for some and probably should be expected, but for me, I’m disappointed.

— by Kevin Glueck

No

Disappointing might not be the right word for the 2012-2013 Iowa basketball season.

The Hawkeyes are an extremely young team, starting, for the most part, three freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior. They play in the nation’s top basketball conference, with one of the most difficult conference schedules.

The team has come close to an upset win three times this season: against Indiana, Michigan State, and Minnesota, each decided by fewer than 5 points. They also showed resolve on the road, coming back from double digit deficits against Ohio State and Purdue.

If, as head coach Fran McCaffery says, there are no such things as moral victories, those facts probably don’t matter. If his team doesn’t perform how he wants, the season is a disappointment.

For everyone else, all hope is not lost. The team is first in the Big Ten in assists and 3-point field goal defense, and top-five in multiple other categories, including rebounding, assist/turnover ratio and blocked shots. Aaron White is averaging around 13 points a game, and Melsahn Basabe appears to be back in form. With nine games remaining, the team is only two wins away from matching last year’s total.

For a young team, an NIT bid wouldn’t be a disappointment — it would be beneficial.
Having the chance to play more winnable games and gain chemistry can only help a team that’s losing its lone senior. Look at teams such as Oregon and Minnesota — both made deep runs in the NIT last season and are top-25 this season.

Next season will also be McCaffery’s first season with a full team of his recruits; expect to see the high-flying offense executed to a level his former squads haven’t been able to muster.

The lack of success in close games is frustrating to see — it’s time for Iowa basketball to return to prevalence. It’s just too much to ask in this year’s Big Ten powerhouse. It doesn’t deem the season a disappointment, especially with so much of it left. The Hawks are just too young to succeed against the top competition.

That’s what happens with young teams — they need time to grow.

— by Matt Cabel


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