The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Polar Opposites: Basketball’s performance refreshing in down football year


Complete and total opposites.

That’s where both of Iowa’s top-revenue sports stand right now this month, which features a significant amount of crossover between football and basketball season.

On the hinges of the Iowa football team’s fifth-straight loss Saturday, the Iowa men’s basketball team stormed back from a 20-point halftime deficit to defeat Gardner-Webb, 65-56, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The basketball version of the Hawkeyes is an intriguing bunch, filled with a lot of potential and also a ton of energy. The football team? Reeling, reeling, and reeling again.

Fran McCaffery: stomping, screaming, and red in the face. Kirk Ferentz: Little to no emotion as he chews gum and takes down his notes point-by-point.

Carver-Hawkeye was electric on Saturday night, especially during Iowa’s 24-9 run to open the second half. No one left at halftime. Everyone practically on the edge of his or her seats. The football team has been in shambles in their friendly confines this season, dropping games to Iowa State, Central Michigan, Penn State, and Purdue at Kinnick Stadium.

There were countless times on Saturday night when the players would be in absolute cahoots as their teammates chipped away at Gardner-Webb’s lead. Aside from Hawkeye football’s overtime win against Michigan State on Oct. 13, that squad has seemed complacent this fall.

McCaffery & Co. were everything but complacent Saturday.

And show no signs of slowing down.

The Iowa football program has arguably always been complacent. Ferentz’ career win percentage equates to about a 7-5 record.

Yes, this is only McCaffery’s third season in Iowa City. This is only the fourth game of the 2012-13 season — and if this really is a NCAA Tournament contender probably shouldn’t be down by as much as 23 to Gardner-Webb — but the trajectory of both is pretty clear.

Basketball: Riled with emotion and bound for success. Football: Dull and will be missing a bowl game for the first time since 2007.

Freshman center Adam Woodbury was perhaps the most energized in the win over G-W. After he made two free throws early on in the second half to close the G-W lead, he flailed his arms a few times to get the Carver crowd going. And had some words for his coach.

“[Woodbury] was really excited about making those,” McCaffery said. “He told me ‘All day, coach, all day.'”

It’s nice to see — while the football team might be headed for a complete rebuild, the men’s basketball program is on a roll with a flare of excitement.

A refreshing realization.