Last chance for McCabe, Marble, and Basabe

BY BEN ROSS | OCTOBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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If you had told Devyn Marble he just played against a Final Four team after Iowa’s 75-63 loss to Wichita State in Cancún on Nov. 21, he may not have believed you.

But seeing the Shockers advance as far as it did in the NCAA Tournament in 2013 gave Marble hope for the Iowa team he plays on. The senior guard said he thought that if Wichita State can advance as it did in March, why couldn’t Iowa?

“After playing them, I think, yeah, we played them kind of early. At the time I wouldn’t have [thought they were a final four team], Marble said. “I wasn’t shocked once it happened, but to say that back in November … I would’ve been like, ‘What, I don’t know. What does that make us?’ Because that was a good game between us. But regardless, they got there and they did that by having confidence in themselves and going out there with high energy.”

Expectations are high for this Iowa basketball team for the 2013-14 season, as they should be. The Hawkeyes return more or less all its major statistical leaders from a 2012-13 season that featured a 25-13 record and a berth in the NIT championship game in Madison Square Garden.

As seniors, Marble and his classmates — Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe — have the new obligation of leading their younger teammates on the court; hopefully, Marble said, to the NCAA Tournament.

“You have to take the responsibility and embrace the challenge,” he said. “The hardest thing is to get to [the NCAA tourney]. Once you get there, anything can happen.”

Marble certainly isn’t the one who’s spreading the expectation of national implications around the Iowa locker room, either. All the seniors want to apply the icing to the cake that is their Iowa basketball careers. And head coach Fran McCaffery said he couldn’t think of three better people to lead the charge for his team.

“They’re three fabulous individuals,” McCaffery said. “I think any coach would be thrilled to have them on their team. For the four of us it has been an incredible journey. Year one, all three of them were right in the middle of it. Two of them were starting, Zach played a lot. they’ve grown, they’ve gotten stronger, they’re workers and they’re thrilled to be on a team that has expectations like this.”
McCaffery has similar expectations, too.

“I think obviously we’re looking at [making it to the NCAA Tournament] being the next barometer, clearly,” the fourth-year head coach said. “That’s the next logical step, but if you look at it, it seemed like we had last year, and we just missed. You win 25 games, and you’re not going to say it’s a failure. You want to get in, you’ve got to go beat some people. We’re playing a lot of teams in the top 10 twice. We’ve got a tremendous amount of opportunities to take care of business.”

But the Big Dance is far away, and the season doesn’t start until Nov. 3, when Augustana comes to Carver-Hawkeye for an exhibition game. Until that first tip-off, at least one of the seniors said he just wants to enjoy his final months in Iowa City.

“It’s crazy thinking I’m a senior,” McCabe said. “It seems like yesterday I was a freshman coming in. But it’s been fun so far.”

Still, having the ability to be the first Iowa team to make the NCAA tourney since 2006 seems to be what’s in the back, front, and side of everyone’s minds. Iowa is slated to be ranked in the top 25 in the preseason. When this was written, USA Today picked Iowa to be ranked No. 23 before any games were played.

And reaching those goals will come down to one thing, Basabe said. The senior forward from New York took a page out of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz’s book and said this year is all about execution on the basketball court for he and his teammates.

“I’m just happy to be on a team with so many talented players,” Basabe said. “Coach Fran is such a great coach, so I think everything is a blessing. It’s important we work every day and live in the moment and go out and prove ourselves. We all have goals and aspirations, we need to go out and prove them and work hard to achieve them and fulfill them as a team. I think winning and being successful should be at the top of everyone’s list.

“It feels great, there’s so much promise in the air right now. The next step is just executing.”

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