There’s much to like about Iowa this March. The Hawkeyes are deep and talented and possess one of the most efficient offenses in the entire country. Though, they struggle defensively and have let several marquee wins slip right through hands this season.
The cause for concern has been a three-game losing streak — Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana — No. 20 Iowa carried into Sunday’s game against Purdue, which had also lost three consecutive. The young Boilermakers gave Iowa a good fight inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, though they returned to West Lafayette with a four-straight defeat as Iowa became too much down the stretch in an 83-76 win on Sunday afternoon.
Purdue had it to a one-possession game on several occasions late in the game. Up one, Gabriel Olaseni kept a ball alive which led to a Josh Oglesby 3-pointer with 3:30 remaining. Roy Devyn Marble (21 points) stretched it to five with an old-school 3-point play. For the remaining 2:30, Iowa scored its points from the line.
Iowa was 8-for-10 from the line in the last several minutes. For the afternoon, the Hawkeyes shot 15 more free throws than the Boilermakers, connecting on 72 percent of their attempts. Iowa made 26 free throws. Purdue only took 21.
A look at Iowa’s schedule, before its three-game slide, and there is a lack of bad losses; all defeats came against tournament teams. Though the Hawkeyes had halftime leads over Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin — all away from home — and ended up losing those games by a combined 12 points. The Hawkeyes dropped another opportunity for a statement win against a shorthanded Michigan State squad on Jan. 28.
Iowa’s best wins are at Ohio State on Jan. 12 before the Buckeyes went in a tailspin and a thrashing against then-No. 10 Michigan, though two weeks later Iowa late-game execution and defensive woes sparked a three-game losing streak.
The Hawkeyes are back in the win column, but they can make a stronger impression on the rest of the nation on Thursday when they take on No. 18 Michigan State in East Lansing. Given how the Spartans played in a loss to Illinois on Saturday, Tom Izzo will have his guys ready to go. This is an opportunity for Iowa to avenge a loss earlier this season to Sparty, land another marquee win and get some momentum rolling as they head into the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.
A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.
The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.
Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.
Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.
“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”
Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.
Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.
There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.
McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.
Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.
“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”
Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.
“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”
Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.
Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.
That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.
Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.
Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.
Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.