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.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.