Fran McCaffery

Iowa struggles but ultimately does enough to defeat Omaha

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Fran McCaffery’s Iowa Hawkeyes are a team many believe to be capable of at the very least reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006, with guard Devyn Marble and forward Aaron White among the returnees from last season’s 25-win squad. But after blowing out UNC-Wilmington on Friday night the Hawkeyes had their hands full with Omaha, trailing by seven at the half before coming back to win 83-75.

Aaron White was excellent, tallying 20 points and 15 rebounds, and four players reached double figures for the Hawkeyes. But if they’re to make good on the preseason expectations Iowa will have to be more consistent, especially when it comes to taking care of the basketball. Iowa finished the game with 18 turnovers, with 12 of the miscues coming in the first half. The combination of turnovers and 35% shooting in the first half certainly factored into Omaha’s 43-36 lead at the half, and against the stronger opponents they’ll see in the Big Ten Iowa can ill-afford such starts.

The good news for Iowa is that they were able to turn things around in the second half, taking better care of the basketball and improving their shooting by nearly six percentage points. Iowa can also cite its rebounding effort as they move forward. The Hawkeyes managed to grab 20 offensive rebounds, finishing with an offensive rebounding percentage of 50%.

No team is a finished product in early November and that’s certainly a true statement for Iowa, with early games providing the looks needed in order to get better as conference play approaches. The Hawkeyes didn’t look as good as they did on Friday night and Omaha certainly deserves some credit for that. But in the end Iowa avoided a defeat that can weigh a team down should the land on the bubble come March.

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.