Iowa Hawkeyes: Excitement High as Season Begins Friday Night

Geoff EstesCorrespondent INovember 8, 2012

October 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes men's head coach Fran McCaffery speaks to the audience during the Big Ten media day at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

It has been quite a while since Iowa fans were as excited for basketball season to start as they are this year.

Of course, a disappointing football team doesn't hurt by making fans turn their attention elsewhere, but most of this excitement is due to the high expectations surrounding the basketball team.

Fran McCaffery opens his third season as Iowa's head coach Friday night at home, at Carver Hawkeye Arena, against the University of Texas Pan-American.

This isn't really going out on a limb, but it has been years, literally, years, since I have been so sure Iowa will win a specific game. Iowa will begin the season 1-0 Friday night.

In the past few years they have been too inconsistent, or simply not talented enough, to ever feel comfortable going into a game. My feet are up, I've got a snuggy, and my dog is on my lap. I'm comfortable.

This isn't a shot at UT-PA as much as an endorsement of the current Iowa roster. There is more talent, and experience in Iowa City this season as we have seen since Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner were seniors.

After numerous years of under-performing recruits and a myriad of transfers, this Hawkeyes team should be pretty familiar to fans.

Yes, Bryce Cartwright is gone, and more importantly Matt Gatens is gone, and he will be sorely missed, but pretty much everybody else (not including Andrew Brommer) is back.

Iowa has Eric May as their lone scholarship senior. Melsahn Basabe, Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe lead a strong junior class. Aaron White, Josh Oglesby and Gabe Olaseni round out the important, and very talented, returning sophomores.

Which brings us to the freshman class led by Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury.   

Gesell is the exciting point guard from Nebraska who will take the reigns of the team from Cartwright.  McCaffery, and everybody around the Iowa Basketball program has spoken very highly about Gesell in the short time he has been on campus.

Woodbury is a seven footer who chose Iowa over other top schools who were recruiting him.  He should have some growing pains, but his defense should be a constant. His left-handed post moves could also cause issues for some defenders.

For now, we have more questions than answers concerning Iowa Basketball, and tomorrow night probably won't answer a lot of them. It will, however, give Hawks fans a taste of the team that may be the first Iowa team in seven years to go dancing in March.