Time to get mad (again). Big Ten Basketball Media Day was last week, and it was usual mix of previews, platitudes, and nuggets of news. Fran continues to talk the talk better than any Iowa coach in recent memory (in any sport); he can clearly articulate what he wants to do, but he's pragmatic enough to accept that Iowa basketball can't transform into something new overnight. Of course, Iowa was still an 11-20 team last year, so prognosticators aren't exactly going out on a limb and projecting big things for this year's Iowa team. Iowa finished 10th in the preseason Big Ten beat writers' poll, ahead of Nebraska and Penn State (although at least one intrepid beat writer had them as high as 6th in the league, which would be Iowa's best finish since ending up 6th in 2007). Our blog buddies at Sippin' on Purple have Iowa pegged a little lower: 11th in the league, mainly due to concerns over our lack of depth at PG and lack of decent shooters. Big Ten Powerhouse doesn't lay a marker down on a season finish, but does take encouragingly about an NIT bid, so hey.
But what about the players, huh? Glad you asked. First, the bad news: Devyn Marble hasn't been practicing for a few weeks due to a concussion. As we all know by now, concussions are no trifling matter, so it's good to see Iowa's medical staff being cautious with Marble. We certainly hope he gets healthy soon and gets back on the court, but on the bright side it is an injury to the one position where Iowa is fairly well-stocked with options: athletic wing players. On the not so bright side is the news (in the Marble link) that Andrew Brommer will miss another three weeks while he recovers from an MCL sprain; Brommer's shortcomings are well-known, but Iowa has so few low post options that they can ill afford to have one of them sitting on the bench in street clothes for an extended period of time. He should be back by the time Iowa begins its toughest stretch of non-conference games (the in-state rivalry games), at least. On the other hand, McCaffery has been effusive in his praise of freshman Gabe Olaseni and while it's unwise to expect too much out of a true freshman in most cases, if Olaseni can be a force on the glass and on defense, it would help this team immensely. Nor is Olaseni the only Hawkeye drawing effusive praise; Melshan Basabe got big ups from ESPN's Jay Bilas:
"I’m a big fan of that kid," Bilas said. "He’s bouncy, he’s athletic and he goes after the ball."
Is "bouncy" the new "wingspan"? Maybe. And finally, our colleagues at High Porch Picnic have an interesting look at "The Matt Gatens Regression Myth."
Book learnin'. In general, Iowa athletics probably hasn't won as much as we'd like over the past half-decade or so. Aside from the wrestling team's national title three-peat and the football team's Orange Bowl triumph, success has been a little hard to come by; the football team has been mired in 6-8 win seasons, the basketball team has endured its worst four year stretch ever, and women's basketball has been up and down. So that's a bummer. But at least a lot of those athletes are graduating -- more than in years past and more than most of their Big Ten peers. We tend to care more about the "athlete" part of their lives, but all of those Iowa players are also students and it is nice to see them doing well in that area.
Rule changes ahoy. Finally, change is afoot at the notoriously stodgy and slow-moving NCAA. TeamSpeedKills has a nice summary of the three big changes:
* Increased financial aid to student-athletes: coverage of "the full cost of attendance" or $2000 (whichever is less)
* Tying APR to post-season eligibility for teams (including bowl games)
* Ability to offer multi-year scholarships (currently scholarships are for year with an option for renewal)
The latter two are unlikely to have much of an impact on Iowa. The cut-off point for eligibility will be a multi-year APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930 as of 2012-2013 (moving up to a multi-year APR of 930 or a two-year average of 940 as of 2014-2015); Iowa has been above that level for a while now, even with as much attrition as we've seen out of the football and (men's) basketball teams. Similarly, while the scholarships Iowa has been offering have been the single-year with an option for renewal types, in almost every case renewal through four years is simply a formality; this rule simply solidifies the existing practice at Iowa (and virtually every Big Ten school). Where it could have an impact, of course, is in the SEC, where the practice of running off existing scholarship players to make room for new scholarship players is more prevalent. And in terms of the additional money, that isn't something that should be difficult for Iowa to afford -- Iowa brings in a pretty penny or two -- and should be a welcome benefit for student-athletes. Time will tell what sort of impact these changes have on college sports as a whole, but in general they seem like positive steps forward.
BLIND SIDE HITZ
* Per Pat Harty, Iowa is looking at recrutiing a pair of JUCO defensive linemen out of California. Pleasebetrue pleasebetrue pleasebetrue...
* Doc discusses the importance of certain dates for rivalry games and notes that Iowa-Minnesota is in flux; after losing to them at the end of November last year and at the end of October this year, maybe playing them at the end of September next year will help. (Probably not.)
* Speaking of football rivals, did you know that Purdue is Iowa's third-most frequently played opponent of all time (behind Minnesota and Wisconsin, obviously)? And we scoffed at Delany...
* Big Ten women's basketball had a media day last week, too, with the big news being that it's a league devoid of size this year and that junior guard Jamie Printy (pre-season All-Big Ten) is looking to fill the leadership void left by the graduation of Kachine Alexander.