McCaffery, Hawkeyes Take Aim on Wildcats - Hawkeye Sports Official Athletic Site
Men's Basketball hawkeyesports.com
McCaffery, Hawkeyes Take Aim on Wildcats
A victory Saturday gives Iowa a 9-9 league record, momentum heading into Indy
Matt Gatens and three other UI seniors will be saluted prior to Saturday's game with the Northwestern Wildcats.
Matt Gatens and three other UI seniors will be saluted prior to Saturday's game with the Northwestern Wildcats.
Men's Basketball Home

HEADLINES
Analysts Believe in 2014-15 Hawkeyes

All-Session Tickets for Big Ten Women's and Men's Basketball Tournaments On Sale Today

Men's Basketball Single-Game Ticket Information

RELATED LINKS
Follow all of the college basketball action at CollegeSports.com

Email this to a friend


March 2, 2012

IOWA CITY, Iowa - How "big" is Saturday's date with the Northwestern Wildcats for Fran McCaffery's University of Iowa men's basketball team?

Well, let's count the ways...

BTC tournament logo 125

First, it's "Senior Day." The Hawkeyes and their fans will salute the work of seniors Devon Archie, Bryce Cartwright, Andrew Brommer, and Matt Gatens, a group that has provided the leadership on and off the court that has resulted in a men's basketball program at the UI that is clearly healthy, surging, and on a definitive climb back into a position of prominence in the Big Ten Conference and nationally.

Second, the UI enters the game one game below .500 in Big Ten play. A victory over the Wildcats will avenge a double-digit loss to Northwestern earlier this year in Evanston and pull Iowa to level par in the league - a position it hasn't been in early March since 2006-07 when Iowa defeated Illinois on Senior Day to improve to 9-7.

Third, a win on Saturday guarantees Iowa its first winning season since that 2006-07 campaign and secures Iowa the No. 7 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament and a date with either Minnesota or Illinois on Thursday afternoon (4:30 p.m. Iowa time, ESPN2) inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.





"What I'm trying to do is kind of just focus on this game and not look at, well, we haven't done this since then and all that kind of stuff. I don't care about that. I just want to try to win this game and get our guys ready for this game. That said, a .500 record in the league puts you in a completely different situation in terms of postseason opportunity. A lot of times coaches don't like to talk about things specifically like that, but everybody else is, so we might as well do it."


"What I'm trying to do is kind of just focus on this game and not look at, well, we haven't done this since then and all that kind of stuff. I don't care about that. I just want to try to win this game and get our guys ready for this game," McCaffery told the media assembled in Carver-Hawkeye Arena's media room on Friday.

"That said, a .500 record in the league puts you in a completely different situation in terms of postseason opportunity. A lot of times coaches don't like to talk about things specifically like that, but everybody else is, so we might as well do it.

"I mean, let's not pretend that it's not there," he continued. "It's right there for them if they want it. I know that we'll play with great effort. What we have to do is play with better execution than we did when we played them last time."

So, yes, Saturday's game is a big one for the Hawkeyes....but it's also very much the same for the visitors.

Bill Carmody's Wildcats are squarely a "Bubble Team" for those who crunch the numbers and fill the lines on NCAA Tournament brackets. But the thickness of the bubble for Northwestern continues to get thinner and thinner and reached a new level of "thin" Wednesday night when Ohio State scored on its final possession to secure a 75-73 win inside a frenzied Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The loss was the fifth by single-digits suffered by the Wildcats in Big Ten play and it dropped the only program from the NCAA's "power conferences" to never have participated in the NCAA's post-season party to 7-10 against its league peers and 17-12 overall - not exactly numbers that catch and grab the attention of the NCAA Selection Committee.

Some observers suggest a victory over Iowa is a must-have for the Wildcats if they want an invitation to the Dance. A loss on Mediacom Court on Saturday - tipoff is set for shortly after 1:30 p.m. Iowa time - and Northwestern may have to be clipping down the nets as Big Ten Tournament champions to be dancin'.

"We're just playing another league game that has significance," McCaffery said when asked if he feels like the ogre in Northwestern's Cinderella story.

"I don't really pay much attention to that at all. I'm sure Bill doesn't, either. He can't help hearing about it, but he's just trying to get his team to win a game, too. They've had a very good year. (John ) Shurna has had as good a year as anybody in college basketball."

As noted, Saturday is Senior Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Iowa enters the game as winners of eight of their last nine home season finales including the thrilling 67-65 victory over Purdue a year ago. That event was the swan song for Jarryd Cole, a favorite of fans of the Hawkeyes. Tomorrow, that position will be reserved for Matt Gatens, the Iowa City native who has persevered through three coaching changes to have the Hawkeyes on the brink of post-season play for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Gatens will take the floor Saturday rolling. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday - his first. He and former Hawkeye Roy Marble are the only players in school history to score more than 1,500 points, grab more than 400 rebounds, get credit for more than 250 assists and 125 steals.

He's a leader in every way, shape, and form, and will be missed.

"I think any coach wants somebody that they can count on every night, pretty much every possession. I want to get his best. If he's missing a shot, he's going to run back. He's going to guard his man. He's not going to turn it over," said McCaffery.

"He's going to make his free throws at the end of the game, and then through the course of the game he's going to make some baskets for you. Some nights he's going to make more than others. But he's going to keep working regardless of how many double coverages he sees. He's just going to keep coming. He's going to be relentless."

Gatens -- deservedly so -- will be on center stage. However, McCaffery wants everyone to know the three other seniors are also deserving of acknowledgement.

"I don't want to be in any way ungrateful because we can talk about Matt Gatens, but Bryce Cartwright said yes to me and he didn't know me, and the first time he saw me was when he got off the plane for his visit. And Devon Archie and Andrew Brommer have endured injury and they just kept coming for me, and nobody talked about them because they haven't accomplished as much as Matt but they've been an integral part of what we're trying to do," Iowa's second-year head coach noted.





"We don't win that game the other night without Brommer. He was tremendous, and I love those guys, and I appreciate their families and want their families to be there."


"We don't win that game the other night without Brommer. He was tremendous, and I love those guys, and I appreciate their families and want their families to be there."

Win or lose on Saturday, Iowa will be playing on Thursday in Indianapolis. What's not known is the Hawkeyes' seed, game time, or first round opponent. Those answers will come over the weekend when the league's regular season comes to an official close and teams are slotted into the tournament bracket.

Click HERE for all the details about the 2012 Big Ten Conference Men's Basketball Tournament including game-by-game television assignments.

Hawkeye Item -- Less than 1,500 tickets remain for Saturday's game against Northwestern. The UI Athletics Ticket Office suggests fans interested in purchasing tickets do so in advance of the game by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS or online by clicking HERE.

Twitter
  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago