BALLIN'. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Youth will be served. We've commented multiple times on how fortunate the Iowa basketball team is to have a trio of freshmen as capable and productive as Melsahn Basabe, Roy Devyn Marble, and Zach McCabe; despite their occasional inconsistency, they've been three of Iowa's best players all season and without their contributions, Iowa would be not just a bad team, but a really horrendously bad team. But how do they stack up historically with other talented freshmen classes? Pretty well, actually:
Collectively, Basabe, Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe are among the most productive Iowa freshman classes since 1972-73.
Their collective 22.8 points a game is third behind the 23.8 points a game by Ricky Davis and Dean Oliver in 1997-98 and the 23.5 points a game by Jess Settles and Chris Kingsbury in 1993-94. And their collective 12.8 rebounds a game is unmatched.
That's pretty good company. And those freshman numbers weren't just flukes, either: aside from Davis (who jetted to the NBA after his freshman season), all of those guys (Oliver, Settles, Kingsbury) went on to have pretty tremendous careers at Iowa. If Basabe, Marble, and McCabe continue to progress (and, crucially, stay at Iowa, something past underclassmen phenoms at Iowa have failed to do), there's reason to think we might look back on their careers as fondly as we do those of Deano, Jess, and Kingsbury.
You better recognize. The women's hoops season wrapped up last weekend and quite a few few Iowa players got honored in the aftermath of the week and the season. Jamie Printy earned player of the week honors for averaging 30 points a game (!) in Iowa's wins over Illinois and Indiana. She also tacked on 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.0 steals and shot 60% from the floor. That's not too shabby. In terms of end-of-year accolades, Kachine Alexander was tabbed first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media -- and made the Big Ten's All-Defensive team. Printy was second-team All-Big Ten (coaches) and third-team All-Big Ten (media), while Kamile Wahlin was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches and media. Whew. Well done, ladies.
Up next? A quarterfinal game in the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State tonight (7:20pm, BTN). That game was the tournament final a year ago and was expected to be again this year, before both teams hit a few potholes in the regular season and Michigan State and Penn State emerged as surprise standouts in the league. Iowa and Ohio State split their regular season meetings this year, each winning at home, and enter the tournament as the hottest teams in the league -- OSU has won their last six in a row, while Iowa's won five in a row. This series has been one of the Big Ten's best rivalries over the past few years, so it should be a good game -- and with Samantha Prahalis on hand, you never know when someone might lose their shit and start a donnybrook on the court.
Lookin' back is hard to do. John Bohnenkamp took a look back at Iowa's non-conference schedule and finds that, as always, hindsight makes things much clearer. Some of the wins were better than they seemed at the time, like the win over Alabama at the Paradise Jam; the Tide went on to become a bona fide NCAA Tourney bubble team (although they were aided in that endeavor by the fact that they played in the SEC, half of which was wretched this year). The UNI win was good at the time and wound up looking even better when they turned into one of the top teams in the MVC (until Lucas O'Rear's injury sent them crashing back to the pack). And a few of the losses weren't quite as bad as they looked; Long Beach State wound up winning the Big West regular season title and South Dakota State wasn't too bad.
On the other hand, a few of the losses sting even more. Wake Forest wound up being truly heinous in the ACC this year and until their recent two-game winning streak, Iowa State was the laughingstock of the Big 12 (although they led the league in moral victories). Of course, those losses also hurt so bad because they were eminently winnable games that Iowa choked off in the second half. Iowa wound up 7-5 in non-conference play this year; assuming they play a comparable slate next year (and there's no indication that Fran is going to be taking a page out of the Izzo playbook and scheduling a murderous run of games in December), the key will be turning that 7-5 into something like 10-2. That will give them a much better foundation heading into what looks like a rebuilding Big Ten -- and give them real hope for making some sort of postseason next year.
* Speaking of the potseason... don't rush out and buy CBI tickets just yet -- especially if you were angling to attend a home game. Even if Iowa gets an invitation to the CBI (by no means guaranteed), the Carver renovation project will prevent them from playing any games there.
* Following up on Big Ten Senior Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner's comments in an interview with Off-Tackle Empire last week, Bloodpunch confirms that nine conference games in football is all but a done deal -- it's just a matter of when and that involves waiting out currently signed contracts for non-conference games. The earliest we might see nine conference games is probably 2015. Dochterman has a plan to restore balance to the league's scheduling with the addition of a ninth game; it seems eminently reasonable, which means there's no chance the league will actually use it.
* Someone tell Brands to give this kid a scholarship, pronto.