Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby

How Iowa plans to end seven-year tourney drought

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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.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.