Oct. 9, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's the same thought every preseason for University of Iowa head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery.
"I just want to be better than we were last year," he said Wednesday at a media day news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Better than last year would be at least 26 victories.
Better than last year would be at least 10 wins in the Big Ten Conference.
Better than last year would be waving goodbye to the National Invitation Tournament and hello the NCAA, a dance the Hawkeyes last took in 2006.
"We are excited that people think enough of our team to rank us in the top 25 and project us to be in the NCAA Tournament," McCaffery said. "That's exciting. But the reality is now we have to go out and do it."
Iowa will be led by seniors Melsahn Basabe, Roy Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe. Marble paced the Hawkeyes in scoring (554 points, 15 per game) and assists (112, three per game) last season when the Hawkeyes finished 25-13 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten Conference. Basabe averaged 6.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks; McCabe averaged 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds.
"McCabe and Basabe aren't big talkers, but you don't have to be a big talker," McCaffery said. "As long as you're a worker and you're producing consistently, that's going to be critical."
Iowa returns 12 letterwinners, so there is much more to McCaffery's fourth Hawkeye team than a solid group of seniors.
"Our style of play is the best way to create substitution situations because when guys are coming out, they're tired," McCaffery said. "The other thing is to have players who truly want to win and legitimately care about each other."
"We are excited that people think enough of our team to rank us in the top 25 and project us to be in the NCAA Tournament. That's exciting. But the reality is now we have to go out and do it."
UI head basketball coach
"Everybody is ready and they all know they're going to get their number called," McCaffery said. "They prepare that way in practice and they complement each other in terms of skill set."
A deep and talented Hawkeye bench will mean more press, more zone, more motion, more sets.
"We can go to different people in late-game situations which makes us that much harder to prepare for," McCaffery said.
Marble and junior forward Aaron White were named third-team All-Big Ten last season. White was second on the team with a 12.8 scoring average and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.
"His jump shot has improved and his game is much more complete," McCaffery said. "He is a fierce competitor."
"Peter Jok is one of the better shooters I've ever coached," McCaffery said. "(Uthoff) can score, rebound, and block shots. He is tough, physical, a team player and he understands how to win. Those kind of guys have to be on the floor."
Junior center Gabriel Olaseni averaged nearly 11 minutes in 37 games last season and he could see more court time in 2013-14, even paired at times with Woodbury, a fellow center.
"(Gabe) had a phenomenal summer," McCaffery said. "He is a completely different player than when he first got here. He's comfortable now in what is expected of him and he is capable of doing it."
McCaffery said his team will continue to play with an attack mentality that allowed the Hawkeyes to attempt 896 free throws last season -- an average of 5.8 more per game than their opponents.
"We're going to play with an attack mentality and when you do that you're going to get to the rim," McCaffery said. "We'll continue to attack. We were third in the country (in 2012-13) in that particular stat and hopefully we'll move up."
The Hawkeyes will participate in the Black and Gold Blowout on Friday, Oct. 25, and host Augustana (Ill.) in an exhibition Sunday, Nov. 3.