Men's hoops set to begin highly anticipated season


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After all of the preseason speculation and hope of a possible NCAA Tournament run, the Iowa men’s basketball team is finally set to take the court in a meaningful game.

Up first for the Hawkeyes is North Carolina-Wilmington, a team coming off a 10-win campaign in 2012-13. The Seahawks are much more experienced this year, however, and they return five of its top six scorers from a year ago.

“It’s a team that presents a lot of challenges,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “This is not an easy opening game by any means. It’s a well-coached team, it’s a veteran team, and it’s a team with a history of winning. They’ve got a lot of different weapons, and they’ve got a combination of size and speed that I think will challenge us in a big way.”

Iowa is surely the heavy favorite Friday, but last time McCaffery’s squad played an inferior team, it was outplayed against Augustana on Nov. 3, despite the fact that the Hawkeyes won the game handedly.

Since, McCaffery has attempted to send a message to his team, in hopes that it realizes it hasn’t really accomplished anything yet, regardless of the preseason hoopla and excitement surrounding the potential of this year’s Hawkeye unit.

“I think the complacency factor trickled in during the [Augustana] game,” center Gabriel Olaseni said. “It wasn’t all bad like coach said, but there were some points where we should have expanded the lead. Simple mistakes we made, some guys’ heads weren’t in the game. It’s just a learning experience and we’re just glad it didn’t happen on Friday when it counts.”

It’s expected that McCaffery will employ the same starting lineup he did against Augustana, meaning Devyn Marble, Mike Gesell, Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury will take the court first for the Hawkeyes.

In a way, the non-conference schedule will be particularly crucial for McCaffery, seeing as the Black and Gold’s lineup groupings and rotation is anything but set at this point. The fourth-year head coach mentioned he’ll use the opening stages of the season to better gauge his team’s tendencies and which players are better suited to work together.

“He’s definitely going to use this time to see what rotations he likes and what groups he likes out there,” Marble said at Big Ten Media Day on Oct. 31. “It’s going to be a learning experience for him too as far as the beginning stages of how our team and the depth go.”

Outside expectations are certainly high this season, and Friday will be the team’s first real opportunity to live up to them. Of course, the team won’t admit to taking any stock in the external noise. But players and coaches have heard and are aware of it.

Fortunately for them, they say, no outside expectation will distract the overall direction of the program, because what they expect from themselves is clearly above what any outsider could forecast.

“We try not to listen too much to what people say,” Olaseni said. “We try to keep it internalized, understand that we really haven’t done anything yet. We’ll try to stay humble and hungry. Our expectations are far greater than anything anyone outside can put on us, so we have to realize that.”

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