IOWA BASKETBALL Starts Tonight: Season Preview
My outlook/expectations are little higher than the Hawkeye fan-base, and a lot higher than those of the national pundits.
Iowa's biggest question mark is no secret. The bigs are inexperienced and underwhelming. They have big shoes to fill... literally. Whatever we get from the 5 spot (and 4 spot when we play 3 guards) will be an added bonus. Gorney, Looby, Tate, and Crawford will all need to step up (esp. Gorney) and find ways to help out the team.
Although some think Crawford will redshirt, I believe he will not do so this year. Iowa needs bodies and he will need to help out, even if he only contributions are his five fouls. It would have been nice to have Palmer eligible this year, he would be able to help immediately.
I REALLY, REALLY like our guards this year. I believe Iowa has one of the top backcourts in the Big Ten, as well as in the nation (I'm sure others will disagree). Henderson, Haluska, Freeman, Johnson, and Smith are all solid. Wessels needs to be this year's Brownlee; come in and let the other guy's get a blow, take care of the ball, play smart. Once we get rolling on the season, I think we will see the staff use more and more four guard sets. With the versatility Tyler Smith brings to the court, Iowa can afford to play four guards. Look for Johnson to be another Chauncey Leslie.
Losing Mike early will allow Wessels to get some more face time against a few mediocre opponents. Let's hope Henderson's injury heals quickly and he doesn't have any lingering effects from it.
The Hawks will need to avoid foul trouble this year, as they aren't extremely deep. 8, maybe 9 man rotation.
As far as team leaders go, it would be obvious to single out Haluska and Henderson. While perhaps you will see this out of the two, don't lose sight of Tony Freeman. I think he will be the one to make the biggest strides this year and end up being the motor behind the Hawks. Haluska is a fine player, but he is much better in the supplemental role. He is not the kind of player that the Hawks can jump on his back, perhaps he can turn into that type of player, but I am not banking on it. Mike needs to be steady and dominate the other PG on the defensive end, something Tony will do well, too.
Overall, though, this year's team is probably one of the most unpredictable squads of recent memory. No real proven commodities, sans Haluska and Henderson, but major upside (and athleticism) in regards to a lot of our players. The season will really depend on how quickly the team can gel and find their identity.
I like the coaching staff as well. While I am not a cheerleader for Alford, I am certainly not a detractor. I guess that makes me one of the biggest supporters of SA, as most Hawk fan do not approve of him as the coach at Iowa at all. I think he is taking the program in the right direction and the past three seasons has shown increase productivity from the basketball team. The change in the assistants can only help out the Iowa program. Time will tell on that move, though.
As far as a prediction on the season: I see Iowa finishing somewhere between 3rd-6th in the Big Ten, getting about 20 wins, and making it to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament. Haluska should make the 2nd team BT, Smith might pick up a few freshman awards, Henderson has a shot at picking up the defensive POY in the BT although those awards normally go to a big man and he should also find he way onto an all-BT team. But as always, I am sure there will be a few surprises (bad and good) that happen this year. Be ready for a LOT of ups and downs. There will be times this team looks like a junior high squad and their will be times it looks like and all-world squad. Hop on the rollercoaster, though because it's going to be a fun, fun ride... let's hope we have hair left on our heads after the season is over.