Iowa (0-0) at UNC-Wilmington (0-0)
Date: November 8, 2013
Time: 8:30 p.m. CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena
Television: Nothing on broadcast, but WatchESPN has it.
Line: Iowa -24
Iowa basketball opens its most highly-anticipated season in nearly a decade Friday night, when the Hawkeyes face the mighty Seahawks of UNC-Wilmington at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The Seahawks are coached by former Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson; in his three previous seasons at the helm, Peterson has failed to win more than 13 games, and went 10-20 in 2012-13. That team was led by forward Keith Rendleman, who has since graduated and is now playing professionally in Korea. So now you know: There's professional basketball in Korea!
This year's team doesn't look much better than the last. The Seahawks are picked to finish eighth in the nine-team Colonial Athletic Association. They are not particularly big (their tallest starter is 6'9) or experienced (while there are eleven upperclassmen on the roster, just three averaged more than 20 minutes per game last year). Their likely starting five totaled just 24.5 points per game last season.
Where the Seagulls had trouble last season is also where Iowa loves to attack: Decisionmaking by their guards. UNC-Wilmington was prone to turnovers (more than one in every five possessions) and particularly susceptible to having the ball stolen (their 13.3% steal ratio was among the highest in the nation). Peterson has attempted to alleviate the problem by shifting to a three-guard lineup, but Iowa's versatility should give it an edge if Wilmington tries to play small-ball for any length of time.
Like so many early games, this should be a walkover. Much like Iowa's exhibition game with Augustana, it is less about the win or the margin of victory than it is a chance to play at game speed and adjust back to life in the regular season. Tonight should not be particularly interesting for us, but that should not diminish its long-term importance.