Jan. 29, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Fran McCaffery promised to bring energy, excitement, and enthusiasm to the University of Iowa men's basketball program when he was hired March 29, 2010.
Twenty-one games into the 2013-14 season, it is clear that McCaffery has delivered on his pledge.
The Hawkeyes played in front of a sellout crowd of 15,400 on Tuesday for a sixth time this season, with many students arriving as early as eight hours before tipoff. No. 15 Iowa went five extra minutes against No. 6 Michigan State before falling 71-69. It was just the third time this season the Hawkeyes scored fewer than 70 points.
It was also Black & Gold Spirit Game and both head coaches noticed.
"I just can't say enough about our fans," McCaffery said. "I can't say I'm surprised because I've witnessed it from afar. Whether coaching a team here or watching it on television over the years and knowing the great teams and the great players. This atmosphere, the way they backed our team, was something that really makes me proud, proud to be their coach.
"I'm happy for our players who have really sacrificed. They came here when it wasn't as fashionable, and believed in what we were selling and have created an atmosphere where folks want to come watch, root and be as noisy as they were tonight and try to be as intimidating to the opposition as possible."
UI head basketball coach
"I can't thank them enough. I know from the bottom of my heart, I'm thankful and so are the players."
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is three days removed from competing against his program's biggest rival, Michigan. He recognizes an electric environment. Last night's game took him back to the Tom Davis era (1986-99), when the Hawkeyes won 269 times and participated in nine NCAA Tournaments.
"The place was rocking and the gold and black was impressive," Izzo said. "It reminded me of the old days. I told my team you're going to have to play tough because they are going to take your heart. Fran's teams play tough. They have size, the fans are great."
The year before McCaffery arrived in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes averaged 60.5 points per game, were 0-8 versus ranked opponents, and only nine times in 31 games did they top the 70-point mark.
This season the Hawkeyes are averaging 84.5 points per game. They are 16-5 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten...and the race for a championship is just heating up.
"It's a long Big Ten season and they'll be back raising havoc I promise you," Izzo said of the Hawkeyes.
McCaffery is disappointed with a "close-but-no-cigar" effort against a program that has gone to 16 straight NCAA Tournaments and has won five league titles since 1999-2000.
"If we want to beat them we have to be better than we were," McCaffery said. "Let's go back to work and let's do better and try to win the next one."
That preparation promises to include a few more doses of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm.