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Notebook: Hawkeyes will look to their depth to carry them in 2013-14

BY RYAN PROBASCO | OCTOBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team won’t officially begin its season until Nov. 3 with an exhibition against Augustana, but the Hawks’ level of enthusiasm and excitement during media day on Wednesday showed just how motivated they players are to play in games that count.

Fran McCaffery’s group could have as many as 12 regular contributors in the rotation. Having that much depth could create lineup questionss for the fourth-year head coach, but he’s sure he can tweak lineup combinations that will work to his squad’s advantage.

“I think everybody is ready. They all know they’re going to get their number called,” McCaffery said.  “They prepare that way in practice, and they all complement each other in terms of skill set. I think that’s the way we put this team together.

“We can press more, we can zone more, we can run more motion, we can run more sets, and we can go to different people in late-game situations, which makes us that much harder to prepare for.”

The depth on the team could also put players in difficult situations as well, seeing as there are only a certain amount of minutes to be shared.

The players are content with sacrificing playing time on occasion, though. As long as the team continues to have success, being unselfish won’t be an issue for the Hawkeyes.

“I think the main thing is, as long as we’re winning, everything’s fine,” junior center Gabriel Olaseni said. “Coach McCaffery’s going to put the best players on the floor, and he’s going to play them the number of minutes he feels they deserve to play. The only thing you can worry about is how hard you’re working and what you do when you’re actually in the game.”

Learning from last year

Saying last season was an important year for the Hawkeyes would be a tremendous understatement. They didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament, but getting to 25 wins and reaching the NIT championship proved to many that the Hawkeyes are on the rise.

The Black and Gold still have a lot to accomplish, which makes them dangerous headed into the 2013-14 season.

Learning from the mistakes of a year ago will go a long way in determining the fate of this year’s squad. But what players are taking most from last year, they say, will be the mentality necessary to perform in pressure situations.

“We can take a lot from last year,” guard Mike Gesell said. “The biggest thing I’d say is winning games down the stretch. We have to have that mental toughness. If we win some of those close games, we’re right there in the NCAA Tournament.”

Closing late in games

Gesell’s sentiment on finishing games was echoed by several members of the Hawkeye squad. Closing games was something Iowa struggled with last season. Of their 13 losses, the Hawkeyes lost eight of them by single digits.

Finding the remedy for their issues down the stretch won’t be easy, but McCaffery believes it begins with experience, which is why he’s making sure his players are prepared for any situation that comes their way.

“You just try to set up every possible scenario,” he said. “When you get the ball back, how much time is on the clock, is it a side out-of-bounds, is it out-of-bounds under, are you at full court, just so you get the team to a place where they’ve kind of seen everything at least in practice, and they know what we want to do in terms of trying to get a shot.”

It’s no secret Devyn Marble will be a player the Hawkeyes lean on when those situations arise. He won’t be hesitant to take the final shot if need be, but he believes being a closer means more than just making a clutch shot.

“Just making plays down the stretch, whether it’s offensively or defensively,” Marble said. “Some games we might be behind and need a bucket or it could be when we’re ahead and need a stop … If we can do that, it will be the difference this season compared to last.”


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