Carver-Hawkeye Arena has been the site of recurring disappointment for years now (except when the wrestlers are in the building). Long gone are the days when Brunner, Horner, Haluska, Henderson, and Hansen won a Big Ten tournament championship in 2006.
For the past 4 years, Iowa fans have hibernated through the winter waiting for their gridiron heroes to return. However, next year will be different. While an 11-19 record is hardly cause for celebration and barely an improvement upon last year's 10-22 record, there is optimism in Iowa City. The Lickliter system of running out the shot clock and jacking up a three has been phased out in favor of Fran McCaffrey's (gasp) balanced offense. With only the Big Ten Tournament remaining, let's analyze why Iowa might actually have a good basketball team next year.
The Hawkeyes will lose one player from this year's squad, senior Jarryd Cole. Jarryd Cole's character will be missed. He was a guy who endured knee-surgery his freshman season and managed to bounce back and stick with the Iowa program when it seemed that everyone around him was transferring out of town. Cole was undersized for the center position but forced to play it, because, well, Iowa had no one else to turn to.
Aside from Cole's graduation, Iowa has an arsenal of young talent that, with one more year of experience, is ready to elevate Iowa from the bottom of the Big Ten to hopefully around the middle (baby steps). Here are the players that are causing Iowa fans to feel optimistic going to next year:
Melsahn Basabe shined this year for Iowa, averaging 11.2 point per game. His offensive effort was much much appreciated, but Basabe showcased his athleticism in other ways too. Against Iowa State, Basabe has 7 blocked shots...in the first half! Basabe's athleticism is evident and with another year under his belt perhaps Basabe can make his game even scarier to Big Ten opposition.
Zach McCabe is an interesting player because he has forward size but can also shoot from distance. McCabe had some good games, but was inefficient shooting on the season. His FG% was a mere .348. McCabe had his moments this year, but I'd like to see him improve his game a little bit for Iowa to contend next year. A 6'7" player that can shoot the three with enough efficiency could be a great addition to the Iowa attack next year.
Roy Devyn Marble is a scorer. He had some success this year coming off the bench. His career high came against IU when he scored 18 on 8-13 shooting. He can also handle the basketball, which has been an issue for this year's Iowa who lost their starting point guard to injury. Which brings me to the sophomores...
Cully Payne. It was hard to get a feel on how Cully fits into the McCaffrey system since his season was cut short after only 5 games. Nonetheless, he's a capable point guard with a smooth stroke from deep.
Eric May is the Blake Griffin of Iowa basketball. Well, sort of. He's made some incredible highlights with alley oop dunks (to the point where his teammates may have started to force the alley oop pass to him a little too much). May is a guard with the best 3-point shot on the team. He was the team leader throughout the nonconference schedule, but it was obvious that his confidence dwindled down the stretch of Big Ten play. He's failed to score more than 11 since January 16th. A fresh season could do May a lot of good next year and we might see May making plays and draining threes on a more consistent basis.
The senior class of next year is highlighted by Bryce Cartwright. This was the guy McCaffrey trusted with the ball in his hands when the Hawkeyes needed a clutch shot this year. Without Cartwright this year, I don't know that Iowa would've won a game in the Big Ten. When Payne went down, there was only one guy left to handle the basketball well enough to play point in the Big Ten. That guy was Cartwright. Cartwright can be trusted breaking guys down off the dribble and is a good option in an isolation situation. Cartwright's senior season will be special.
Matt Gatens is another one of the best players on this team. Gatens scored 12.6 ppg, the most on the Hawkeyes. Gatens has a great jump shot but is also a physical player. Gatens bleeds black and gold too. He committed to Iowa in the 9th grade. You have to believe that Gatens will want to bring Iowa a winning season next year.
Finally, there are the to-be-senior big men that didn't see that much time this year. Devon Archie and Andrew Brommer have a lot of similar qualities. Brommer's probably the better of the two, but the key to next year might be seeing how much these guys improve. If Iowa can have some sort of post presence outside of Basabe or a true freshman, it would help them win a lot more games.
The players, fans, and coaches are all yearning for more success at Iowa. With this cast of players coming back next year, improvement is guaranteed. Success is not out of the question. Michigan is having great season this year when it was thought that they would finish at the bottom of the Big Ten with Iowa. Why not Iowa next year?