Tonight, it's the middle of the pack. Without further ado...
7th Place, Big Ten (this seems about right): IOWA HAWKEYES
See the title of this website? That's Hawkeye State. And even I can't put them any higher in good conscience.
The Good News: There's not much. Iowa graduated 4 of their 6 best players from a pretty damn good squad, a team that won the Big Ten tournament and was summarily booted from the Big Dance in typical Iowa fashion (by imploding down the stretch against an inferior team minutes before their fans had to take an international law final). Gone are Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, Erik Hansen (the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, believe it or not), and Doug Thomas (Big Ten 6th Man of the Year). Also gone is Doug's girlfriend, who would turn a skin-tight tank top into a homemade #23 jersey and sit in better seats than me. The Hawks do return Adam Haluska, the greatest Iowa State transfer of all time and the first genuinely nice guy to come through this program in quite a while. He's vowed he won't defer to anyone this season, and that's a good thing. He's streaky as hell, but unstoppable when on. Also returning is Mike Henderson, a 6'2" senior shooting guard. Tony Freeman will make the leap to starting point guard (more on this later). Finally, freshman Tyler Smith is being heralded as the best Iowa basketball recruit in a generation. He's expected to contribute immediately, and has looked good so far (but, remember, Jared Reiner was one of the 4 best high school centers in the country, and we all remember that train wreck). The bench is relatively solid, stocked with Juco transfers and unexperienced underclassmen. And Carver Hawkeye has become a truly nasty place for road teams. Really, this team shouldn't be too bad in a couple of years...
The Bad News: Unfortunately, they'll likely suck now. They have absolutely nobody in the low post. Gorney makes E-Han look athletic. Looby looks over his head. Cyrus Tate has been a beast on the boards so far, but looks to be little more than a poor man's Doug Thomas. There's little to threaten a defense with in that trio. That means all scoring falls on the backcourt (specifically Haluska and Smith, who must combine for 35 points if the Hawks want to break 65). And placing that much of a burden on Adam Haluska and his streaky jump shot might be a bit too much (he already disappeared once this season, scoring 4 points against Alabama). Plus, something is seriously wrong with Tony Freeman, who has made HORRIBLE decisions at the point thusfar (most significantly, a string of poor shots and turnovers that cost a 10-point lead down the stretch Saturday night against Arizona State). Without a consistent ballhandler, a talented big man, or a proven scorer, this could be a struggle.
Nobody in this picture has a job.
News I Can't Categorize: Stevie A appears to be here for the foreseeable future. If there was ever a time when the Hoosiers would come calling, it was last year. That wasn't the case. Throw in not one, but two, contract extensions over the summer, and Steve's pretty well locked in. I've been a true Steve basher in the past, but he seemed a little more at ease last year. That seemed to help. This is going to be a very interesting year. Monitor how he reacts throughout the year, whether he's throwing fits on the sidelines or whining to Bobby Hansen in the postgame interviews. That will say a lot about whether he's truly turned over a new leaf.
Best Name on the Roster: Kurt Looby is just asking to get heckled by the Michigan State students.
All-Time Great: This is really difficult. On the one hand, you have Sean Sonderleiter...
Seriously, it's not easy to pick an all-time great Hawkeye. Downtown Freddie Brown scored more than 14,000 NBA points. Don Nelson scored over 10,000 points in the NBA and gave us the insanely entertaining no-defense early millenium Dallas Mavericks. John Johnson averaged almost 13 a game over 12 years. B.J. Armstrong won three rings with Jordan's Bulls. Reggie Evans grabbed Chris Kaman's balls:
But the winner is Connie Hawkins. The guy's in the Hall of Fame, after all.
Program High Point: Lute Olson takes Iowa to the 1980 Final Four
Program Low Point: Seriously, did you watch that Reggie Evans video? How much lower can you get?
Projection: I honestly think Iowa won't lose another non-conference game (Iowa State and UNI come to Carver, they drew a very beatable Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and the next best team on the schedule is probably the Ivy Leaguers from Cornell). That would put them at 11-3 non-conference, and a 7-9 Big Ten record looks about right. 18-12 it is...
I got home late from work and need some rest, and this is one long preview, so there's only one team tonight.