On Friday, University of Iowa head basketball coach Todd Lickliter announced that four players would be leaving the basketball program. After two consecutive losing seasons, the program needs to find a way to improve in a hurry.
Losing your top play makers in Jake Kelly, Jeff Petersen, who was the teams starting point guard before his injury, and two reserves in David Palmer and Jermaine Davis, you have a team that has even more holes than a team should have after "rebuilding" for two seasons.
The key to all of this is to get the right players into the Lickliter system. As Butler has shown, it doesn't have to be the greatest players to win at the mid-major level. Unfortunately for Lickliter, Iowa plays in the Big Ten. A team like Butler can get up for five games in the non-conference and win some games. They can beat an Ohio State or Tennessee on any given night. But over the course of an 18-game Big Ten schedule, the cream rises to the top.
Iowa needs to bring in players who can play at a high level—true difference makers in the Big Ten. Having system guys at spots one through eight is going to leave Iowa searching for more and more answers about the system that aren't there. Jake Kelly was becoming a one of those type of players, after a year and a half in the system.
At this point, it doesn't appear that this coaching staff is going to be able to beat Michigan State, Illinois, or even Indiana for recruits. But they need to identify the talent that the likes of Washington State, Auburn, and Ole Miss have been able to find. Diamonds in the rough are out there, no doubt about it. But not every player can be one of these finds.
Play the game that is played across the nation in getting these players to campus. It may seem wrong to many people, but hiring fathers and AAU coaches in today's college basketball world is what is happening.
The players that are in high school don't remember BJ Armstrong playing with the Bulls, they don't remember Iowa being a lock to make the second round of the NCAA Tournament when they were like the Dr. Tom Davis years. What they know about Iowa is a struggling program that can give them one thing: playing time.
Many coaches over the years have said the game is more about the Jimmy's and the Joe's, not the Xs and Os. The sooner that Lickliter and the rest of this staff figures that out, the better chance they will have of building the program "The Iowa Way."