Amid little fanfare, the Frantastic Voyage set sail yesterday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And yes, Iowa was only playing a school that might be named for the guy who sang "Jessie's Girl," but the fact remains: this is a completely different basketball team than a year ago. And against truly wretched competition, the new run-and-gun Hawkeyes dominated in a 111-66 exhibition romp. The sea change under Fran McCaffery has officially begun.
Your man of the match was probably Melsahn Basabe, who had 19 points and 8 boards in 23 minutes of play. Moreover, he already looks as good as Aaron Fuller inside of 8 feet. Basabe showed good hands, active feet, and the type of dexterity around the hoop that Iowa hasn't seen since either Cyrus Tate on Tate's best days or, more likely, Greg Brunner. Basabe's repertoire of post moves is still a little limited, but give the kid a break, he's 18. He's got a bright future in the black and gold.
Of course, we also have to mention Eric May, who went 8-12 from the field en route to 21 points in 25 minutes. May also poured in 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals on the day--steals that led to more running in one exhibition than we saw in Lickliter's entire regime. This is only a moderate exaggeration.
Further, it's really great to see May thrive in this offense, because last season, he seemed like the prototypical "guy who transfers from shitty major conference school to high-level major conference school that suits his talents better." I mean, the guy's a 6'5" high-flyer with one of the best jumpers on the team when he's hot, and he was stuck in a 10-win, slow-down offense that often used him as the second-biggest man on the court. I have to confess that I sort of wished at times that May would transfer to Michigan State, since Tom Izzo could get a lot out of him, but only if he promised never to play Iowa. Because that happens all the time, y'know. At any rate, this is a very Eric May-friendly offense for once, and he could easily be the most productive player on the team this season.
Zach McCabe isn't very good yet, and that's okay, but until Matt Gatens gets healthy, McCabe is probably going to start. McCabe showed a decent but streaky jumper, and not a whole lot else that translates into BXI-level skills this early in his career. He'd probably redshirt on at least half of the Big Ten teams this season. But McCabe's not horrible, and his future's bright enough that we're not going to engage in that melancholy "he's just not a Big Ten player" analysis that A) is demonstrably false as soon as you look at his jersey, and B) Iowa fans usually like to engage in anyway with freshmen (do not let that criticism of Cully Payne get whitewashed, by the way; there were plenty of fans even on BHGP who completely gave up on the kid as a true freshman last season).
Devyn Marble mixed it up on the inside more than I (and probably McCaffery) expected over the course of the game, and incoming juco PG Bryce Cartwright was able to penetrate at ease. The new guys aren't here to pass the ball around the perimeter, in other words. Marble was a little too handsy on defense and has a long way to go there, and I'm not yet impressed by Cartwright on this front either, but these exhibitions serve as valuable scrimmages for development on fronts like those. Considering this is each player's first in the McCaffery program, it's fair to expect marked improvement from week to week and month to month on fundamentals as they adjust to the speed of the D-I game.
But back to the larger point, DAMN, it was nice to see Iowa up and running again. I know I didn't much care for the Lickliter firing or what it represented about Iowa's standards versus its reality, but with this extremely limited amount of evidence, McCaffery already looks better for the program. Perhaps this pays off for the Hawkeyes. Hopefully it does.