The Big Ten conference sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament last year, as well as two teams to the NIT tournament. This includes sending Michigan State to the NCAA finals as well as sending Penn State to the NIT finals.
This year the Big Ten is expected to do the same as last year with six teams in the top 25 preseason AP poll. The conference has a good shot of sending even eight teams to the NCAA tournament.
Coach: Todd Lickliter (third season, 28-36 at Iowa, 159-97 overall)
Last season’s record: 15-17 overall, 5-13 in Big Ten (10th in league)
Last time they made the NCAA field: 2005-2006 season
Returning starters: Four
The Hawkeyes are coming off their second consecutive losing season. In the last two years, Iowa has a combined 11-25 record in Big Ten play and a combined 28-36 overall record. Iowa hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons since before Tom Davis was head coach of the Hawkeyes.
Todd Lickliter has a lot of rebuilding to do this year after losing four players due to them transferring out of Iowa and going to other schools. They are Jake Kelly (Indiana State), Jeff Peterson (Arkansas), Jermain Davis (Minnesota State), and David Palmer (NKU).
Iowa was well on its way to becoming a Big Ten contender in a couple years, but now the program is in ruins due to all of the transfers. This can be a make or break season for Coach Lickliter as well as Iowa's basketball program. Iowa will need to finish with a winning record and out of the conference basement for Lickliter to avoid the hot seat and keep his job safe.
Iowa is picked by everyone to finish in last place in the Big Ten Conference. Rivals have Iowa ranked at No. 134, and CollegeHoops.net has them at a ranking of 123. Iowa is currently ranked 121st in the RPI heading into this season.
Projected Starting Five
Matt Gatens, Sophomore, Guard, 10.8 points per game
Anthony Tucker, Sophomore, Guard, 10.4 points per game
Cully Payne, 6'1", Freshman, Guard
Aaron Fuller, Sophomore, Forward, 4.0 points per game
Jarryd Cole, Junior, Forward, 3.7 points per game
Iowa only has six players returning from last year’s team that have any game time experience. With that said, there are a lot of questions that will need to be answered before the start of Big Ten play. Since four players transferred out, there are holes that will need to be filled by existing players or by last year’s recruiting class.
If Iowa can answer most of their questions, then they will have a team that has two inside players that can block shots, rebound, and score as well, as having four outside threats that can hit the long ball.
Senior guard Devan Bawinkel and redshirt freshman guard John Lickliter can drain the three-point shot as well as Gatens and Tucker. Junior forward Devon Archie could be one of Lickliter’s best recruits of last year and could help them in blocking shots as well as scoring and rebounding.
Iowa is also battling the injury bug early this year. Archie injured his shoulder in practice and is out four to seven weeks. He will return before the start of Big Ten play. Freshman Cully Payne is fighting through a sprain ankle that he got during last weekend’s Black and Gold scrimmage. Tucker is also dealing with a hurt back at the beginning of this season.
List of incoming freshman and JUCO players
F Devon Archie, 6'9", jr., Indianapolis
F Brennan Cougill, 6'9", fr., Sioux City, Iowa
G John Lickliter, 5'11", redshirt fr., Iowa City
G Eric May, 6'5", fr., Dubuque, Iowa
G Nick Neari, 6'2", fr., St. Charles, Ill.
G Cully Payne, 6'1", fr., Schaumburg, Ill.
The Hawkeyes have a decent schedule this year. Iowa plays non-conference teams like third-ranked Texas and Pittsburgh in the CBE tournament as well as playing at Northern Iowa.
They also play all six preseason ranked Big Ten Teams this year at home and on the road. They are second-ranked Michigan State, seventh-ranked Purdue, 15th-ranked Michigan, 16th-ranked Ohio State, 23rd-ranked Illinois, and 25th-ranked Minnesota.
There will be too many questions for Iowa to answer this year. Iowa will get their first winning season under Coach Lickliter, but they are still going to be in the lower half of the conference standings.
The Hawkeyes will need to get an inside person to score and rebound as well as block shots. If this happens, then Iowa will become a wild card in the Big Ten conference with a chance to make it to a postseason tournament. Iowa can score on the outside if they are open but need help inside to help win the rebounding game.
A 7-11 finish in conference is my prediction, with a small chance of making any tournament in the postseason, and a 17-15 overall record.