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Wine Online: A Big Week for Fran's Squad

Fran McCaffery's squad will welcome Northern Iowa and Iowa State into the Arena this week.

Fran McCaffery's squad will welcome Northern Iowa and Iowa State into the Arena this week.

Dec. 5, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- This is a big week for Iowa basketball. New Coach Fran McCaffery will get his first taste of in-state competition when his Hawkeyes host Northern Iowa Tuesday and Iowa State Friday. Both games will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

These two opponents present the toughest non-conference tests at Carver Hawkeye Arena for the 2010-11 Hawkeyes, who open Big Ten play Dec. 29 with Illinois here.


McCaffery's first Iowa team is short on size and long on inexperience. The tallest two starters are both 6-7. One is Jarryd Cole, the only senior on scholarship. Of the eight players are averaging at least 10 minutes a game, three are freshmen, one is a sophomore and one is a junior college transfer.

Injuries have also been an issue. Cully Payne started 37 straight games at point guard, but he is now sidelined until January following hernia surgery. Matt Gatens, the leading scorer on last year's club, missed the first two games due to torn tendons in his left (non-shooting) hand. He is wearing a protective device. Iowa's best all-around player has been sophomore Eric May, who leads the team in scoring and steals. The two top rebounders are Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe, both freshmen. Bryce Cartwright, a JC transfer, has played well since taking over at point guard and is No. 2 in scoring.

The Hawkeyes have a modest 4-4 record, but attendance is up and fans have embraced McCaffery's style of play, which includes and up-tempo offense and aggressive defense with some full court pressure. Iowa is averaging 15 points a game more than a year ago. The numbers are also up in rebounds (8) and steals (4).





Iowa has now won 67 straight dual meets, fourth-best in NCAA history. Will this young team with only one senior make another run at a national championship? Too early to say, but one thing is clear: The Hawkeyes have another highly competitive and entertaining wrestling team.



In their first eight games, the Hawkeyes have yet to win or lose two in a row. After beating Idaho State last Saturday, they can win two straight by beating UNI.

IOWA'S WRESTLING TEAM is in a major rebuilding mode after winning three straight national championships. Coach Tom Brands, in his fifth year as head coach, has only two returning starters from a year ago.

That's why it was a little surprising when Iowa put the wood to Iowa State 22-13 and Michigan State 29-10 over the weekend at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Nearly 12,000 roaring fans turned out for the Cyclone meet.

Brands is relying heavily on three freshmen and four sophomores. His team is built around Matt McDonough (125 pounds), who won an NCAA championship as a freshman last year. McDonough is off to a fast start, with a pin and major decision against the Cyclones and Spartans.

Sophomore Mark Ballweg (141) pinned his MSU opponent after upsetting a fifth-year all-American in the Iowa State meet. Freshman Tony Ramo (133) had a major decision and technical fall. Freshman Derek St. John and sophomore Grant Gambrall both had two wins, including a major decision.

Iowa has now won 67 straight dual meets, fourth-best in NCAA history. Will this young team with only one senior make another run at a national championship? Too early to say, but one thing is clear: The Hawkeyes have another highly competitive and entertaining wrestling team.