Riding the strength of a run to the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament, the Iowa basketball program is getting some offseason national attention. Within the past week, the Hawkeyes earned a spot on a listing of teams positioned to make a leap in 2013-14 by ESPN.com and landed in the fourth position on a Big Ten preseason power poll put together by CBSSports.com. For a program which last took the court in the NCAA tourney game in 2006, the attention serves notice that Fran McCaffery has the Hawkeyes headed in a positive direction. In Jason King's top-10 countdown of teams poised for a leap on ESPN.com, the Hawkeyes surface in the No. 5 spot. "Don't be surprise if 2013-14 is the season when Iowa really turns the corner,'' King wrote. King points to the depth of the Hawkeyes' returning talent from a 25-13 team and goes on to conclude that he "wouldn't be surprised if Iowa finished as high as third in the Big Ten while earning its first NCAA tournament berth since 2006.'' CBS' Jon Rothstein reaches a similar conclusion, going as far as to write that the Hawkeyes "will make the NCAA Tournament, and have the potential to do damage once they get there.'' Rothstein points to the number of close games Iowa played a year ago - losing six conference games by five points or less - as his reasoning. He accurately pinpoints that the development of a reliable perimeter shooter will likely be the key to the Hawkeyes' season. Rothstein ranks Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan ahead of Iowa on his preseason power poll of Big Ten teams, with Wisconsin and Indiana sitting behind the Hawkeyes in the upper half of the standings.
Archive for July, 2013
For a multitude of reasons, Kirk Ferentz believes that Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis will enjoy more success in his second time around with the Hawkeyes. Iowa's sporadic offensive production was among the team's chief foils during a 4-8 season a year ago during a transition-filled season. "When you look at it, we had two transitions taking place with Ken (O'Keefe) and Norm (Parker) both leaving, but Phil had been in the program and I think things were smoother for him. He knew the players. They knew him,'' Ferentz said today the Big Ten's annual football kickoff. Davis didn't have that luxury. He had last coached at Texas and brought with him new verbage, new thoughts and new ideas. "Everything was new for the players on our offense and it was a dramatic change for everyone on that side of the ball, coaches included.'' A lack of established running backs and receivers probably didn't help. Although Iowa has questions at quarterback and again at receiver this fall, Ferentz believes all of the Hawkeyes' offensive personnel from players to coaches will be better in the second year of Davis' tenure than they were in the first. "There was a lot of coaching, a lot of teaching and learning that took place a year ago,'' Ferentz said. "This year, the overall comfort level is improved. Greg is more comfortable, the players are more comfortable.'' While it did not show on the scoreboard last season, Ferentz labeled Davis "an excellent coach, an excellent teacher.'' Ferentz believes that Iowa will also benefit offensively from the addition of Bobby Kennedy to the Hawkeye staff as a receivers coach. Kennedy worked with Davis for seven seasons at Texas, coaching the Longhorns' receivers in an offense coordinated by Davis. Ferentz said their previous working relationship should benefit both Davis and Kennedy in additon to the Hawkeyes. "They're not quite like a married couple, but it's close. They go back and forth with each other quite a bit and that's good,'' Ferentz said. "They know where each other is coming from, they're familiar with each other and I think that is only going to help our players.''
Big Ten coaches were given 15 minutes to say what they wanted to say and field questions from the media in the televised portion of today's Big Ten kickoff in the Grand Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton. Kirk Ferentz only needed eight. There were several reasons for the quick thoughts Ferentz served up as the last coach to speak. First, many reporters had already left to work on their local-angled stories. Reporters had additional access to the 15th-year Hawkeyes in the hallway once the televised portion of the event ended. It was there where Ferentz fielded inquiries about graduate assistant coach DJ Hernandez, the health of his players and possible roster changes before the start of fall camp in a little over a week. He then joined the three players that Iowa brought to the event, Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Brett Van Sloten, on individual tables in a room for more Q and A time with reporters. Ferentz joked about the short period of time he spent on the podium. "I was surprised that anybody was still left when I got up there,'' Ferentz said. "I figured it was one, two questions and then out of there to talk with you guys. "Really nobody cares right now, not yet, do they? I mean nobody cares other than you guys. You guys, you still care, right?'' Yep, even about a few changes on the initial depth chart of the fall, the first Iowa has released since the end of spring practices. There are a handful of changes. On offense, Don Shumpert is listed as the back-up to Tevaun Smith at split end, with Kevonte Martin-Manley and either Jordan Cotton or Jacob Hillyer at the wide receiver position. On the offensive line, redshirt freshman Ryan Ward debuts as a back-up to Brett Van Sloten at right tackle. All three quarterback candidates continue to share a first-team line and Ferentz still anticipates it taking several weeks to sort that race out once fall camp begins. On defense, the front four consists of Drew Ott, Carl Davis, a now-healthy Louis Trinca-Pasat and Dominic Alvis on the top line. Redshirt freshmen Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson and Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara continue to fill second-team spots. About the only other change is the listing of a third-team right cornerbacker, where senior Gavin Smith fills that spot. He's former Iowa City West prep and Iowa Central CC player who saw action in one game last year on special teams against Minnesota.
It wasn't the venue he hoped to be playing in or the competition he hoped to face, but the work continues for Devyn Marble. Hours after USA Basketball's entry in the World University Games won its opening game Sunday in Russia, Marble could be found at the North Liberty Community Center competing in a Prime Time League game. Marble's objectives now remain the same as they were two weeks earlier when he was on the court in Colorado Springs, attempting to earn a spot on the USA team as one of 27 participants in the trials. He continues to work on his game, participating in practices with his teammates and taking part in the summer league. "The work continues,'' Marble said. "I'm out working on my game every day, trying to get better and get ready our trip to Europe (Iowa has a foreign tour of France and England scheduled for August) and next season.'' Although there was some initial disappointment over not working his way deeper into the trials process, Marble said he considers the time he did have in Colorado Springs to be a valuable experience. "My confidence level is even higher now than it was before I got out there,'' Marble said. "I was able to go there and compete and it was a great experience just to have the chance. "I could have shot it a little better, played a little better, but I felt like I held my own. I'm better now because of the experience I had out there. It will help me next season, no question.''