By Dan Wallace
A Reflection of the season that was:
With the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 61-66 loss to Michigan State in the first round of the 2011 Big Ten Tournament, it marked the end of the 2010-2011 Men’s Basketball season for the Hawkeyes.
With that being said, I’d like to take a minute to reflect on what happened this past season.
Year one of the Fran McCaffery era was full of ups and downs.
An opening season loss to South Dakota State left many expecting another Lickliter-esque season. However, a win over SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 20th (their third win of the season) changed some opinions. In this contest, the Hawks scored a remarkable 111 points! The thing that makes this feat so impressive is the knowledge that in the 3 seasons before this, while Todd Lickliter was head coach, the Iowa Hawkeyes never scored over 100 points and only eclipsed the 80-point mark once. At the end of non-conference play the Hawks were a respectable (relatively speaking) 7-5.
The start of conference saw the Hawkeyes open up an abysmal 0-6. They were able to compete against #2 Ohio State before eventually losing by 5 during this losing streak. However, people were beginning to wonder if and when this team would secure its first conference win.
Then, the bright spot for this team.
In a span of 2 weeks we saw this young team win 3 conference games, with 2 coming against lowly Indiana and a 20-point beat down of Michigan State. The joy didn’t last long, as another 6 game losing streak began. However, this time, there was hope as Iowa lost three games by three points each game.
On the final day of the regular season Iowa hosted #6 Purdue on Senior Day. In what many have called the biggest upset of the Big Ten season, Iowa stunned the Boilermakers 67-65 to grab their 4th conference victory and bring their whirlwind regular season to an end. While on paper it appears that not much has changed from last year with Lickliter, 10-22 (4-14 in conference play), people would be naïve to think that this year’s team isn’t better than any team we had with Todd Lickliter.
There were a lot of things we saw out of this years’ team that we had yet to see out of a Lickliter team.
First off, we saw the emergence of a freshman force, Melsahn Basabe. While inconsistent at times, Basabe was able to show why McCaffery had strongly recruited him to originally attend Sienna, a NCAA tournament team last year.
We also saw excitement inside Carver Hawkeye Arena for the first time in a number of years. In the win against Purdue, there was a level of excitement that had been lacking for years. We also saw Fran connecting with the students and fans in a way that Lickliter never did.
So don’t be quick to judge this Hawkeye team. They are a young squad that will only improve as they grow within Fran’s system. It won’t be long until you will be seeing Iowa’s name on ESPN when they announce teams for the NCAA Tournament.
What do you think? How would you grade Coach McCaffery in his first year? Leave us a comment and join the conversation.