The Big Ten was the toughest league in the country last season.
It’s only going to get tougher, thanks to realignment.
Despite all that, Year Four of the Fran McCaffery experience in Iowa City is generating some buzz and some genuine optimism. The former Siena coach took over one of the most bone-grindingly slow teams in the B1G and installed a more exciting, up-tempo offense. It worked – the Hawkeyes have added, on average, seven wins per season under McCaffery’s guidance – to the point where Iowa made the NIT finals last season, losing to Baylor in the final game. Now the Hawkeyes are ready to take that all-important next step and return to the NCAA tourney, which they last visited in 2006 under Steve Alford.
McCaffery hopes some new additions will solve the Hawkeyes’ biggest problem from last season – an inability to shoot from the perimeter. Iowa averaged 30.5% from the three-point line, putting them near the bottom of all DI teams in a crucial category.
According to a recent report in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the Hawkeyes think they’ll better resemble the team nickname this year.
“I would be surprised if we didn’t shoot better from 3 (in 2013-14),” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Because we have multiple guys who can shoot 3s. It starts with Mike Gesell and Josh Oglesby. And guys like Zach McCabe,Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff and Anthony Clemmons. We’ve had so many games where there are multiple guys making 3s. I think Aaron White is going to be better. He’ll get to where he’s above 33 percent. Now that changes everything. Now you have seven guys that make 30 or more 3s in a season.”
With more elite-level defenders in the Big Ten, the ability to space the floor with deep shooting will be a key to Iowa’s success in the 2013-14 season. If all else remains on course, adding the deep threat could make this a breakout season for McCaffery’s boys.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.
“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”
The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.
What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.
The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.
Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.
Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.
Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.