Now that it’s practically November and the elections are almost over (thank God), we can really start to prepare for Fran McCaffery’s seventh season. This season’s Hawkeyes will be one of the most unique outfits of McCaffery’s tenure. The Hawks will have a superstar senior, a top 50 freshman, a former walk-on who may start, a new point guard, four new starters, lots of athleticism, and lots of question marks. Here at the Pants, we have been getting you prepared with position previews and potential lineups. Now let’s take a look at our non-conference opponents. We pretty much know what we get with our Big Ten opponents. It’s the non-con opponents that I’m always intrigued by, just because we don’t know much (if anything) about them.
I am personally very excited about this non-conference schedule. The Hawks have 14 opponents (including the exhibition game). There are six cupcakes, two of what I would call respectable mid-majors, and six quality opponents. This schedule provides lots of opportunities for confidence building, but also lots of opportunities for a young team to find out exactly where they stand in relation to tournament-caliber teams.
The results may not always be what we want and there will certainly be growing pains, but the Hawkeyes will be forced to grow up in a hurry. Let’s get excited.
*Note: The RPI number is for the end of the 2015-16 season. The Kenpom number is for the preseason of the 2016-17 season released last week.
Regis University (November 4th, Home)
2016 Summary: 9-19 (7-15 Rocky Mountain Conference, Division 2); no postseason
2017 Outlook: Despite the 2016 record, Regis should prove to be a good test in the exhibition. They return 4 of 5 starters, including their top 3 scorers. Last year’s WTF against Augustana should be a reminder that the Hawkeyes need to always show up, no matter who the opponent.
Prediction: If Iowa loses two consecutive exhibitions to D2 opponents, then I would seriously question if they actually practice in October. No way that happens again. WIN (But doesn’t count)
Kennesaw State (November 11th, Home)
2016 Summary: 11-20 (7-7 Atlantic Sun Conference); no postseason
2017 Outlook: Kennesaw St. generally hovers around the 10 wins mark in a one-bid league. They only return two starters, but one is their leading scorer, Kendrick Ray (18.7 ppg). KSU can put points on the board, as they had three wins last year where they scored over 100. But they can’t stop anyone either, allowing 77 ppg last year, against not good competition.
Prediction: Jok will outgun Ray. Kennesaw also has very little size so Iowa should be able to rebound and go. WIN
Savannah State (November 13th, Home)
2016 Summary: 16-16 (9-7 MEAC); CIT First Round loss to UT-Arlington
2017 Outlook: Top-scorer from last year, Troyce Manassa, returns and has been named 3rd team preseason all-MEAC. SSU was picked to finish 11th out of 13 in the MEAC this year.
Prediction: SSU does not score a lot of points (62 ppg last year). That’s not going to go well in Carver. Oh and they play Iowa State in Ames two nights prior in case the Hawkeyes needed them softened up any more. WIN
Seton Hall (November 17th, Home)
2016 Summary: 25-9 (12-6 Big East); NCAA Round of 64 loss to Gonzaga
2017 Outlook: Juniors Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado were named preseason 2nd team all-Big East. Carrington came on during the Big East Conference Tournament last year, where he averaged 18 ppg. Delgado is a double-double machine who averaged over 9 ppg and 9 rpg last season. The Pirates are picked to finish 4th in the Big East this year.
Prediction: I’m feeling relatively optimistic about this one. This will be Tyler Cook’s first game against a true power forward in Carrington. Despite this game being in Carver, I think Seton Hall’s experience carries, but the young Hawks will put up a good fight that gives us optimism going forward. LOSS
Texas-Rio Grande Valley (November 20th, Home)
2016 Summary: 8-22 (4-10 WAC); no postseason
2017 Outlook: UTRGV is not good. They were bad last year and Kenpom picks them to be one of the worst D1 teams this year. They are relatively young, only returning two starters and are picked to finish 7th out of 8 in the WAC.
Prediction: This should be a confidence-builder going into the Thanksgiving tournament in Florida. WIN
Virginia (November 25th, Neutral)
2016 Summary: 29-8 (13-5 ACC); Elite 8 loss to Syracuse...one of those wins:
2017 Outlook: Virginia is an ACC championship contender in an extremely loaded ACC this year, which automatically makes them a potential national title contender. Tony Bennett has built back up the Virginia program using strong athletes who rebound and defend just about as well as any team in the country. Cyclone-killer point guard London Perrantes returns for the Cavs this year as preseason all-1st team ACC.
Prediction: This is going to be very tough for Iowa’s backcourt. Iowa’s lack of a dynamic PG will hurt in the matchup against Perrantes. LOSS
TBA: Memphis (November 26th, Neutral)
2016 Summary: 19-15 (8-10 AAC); no postseason; Coach Josh Pastner left for Georgia Tech after the season
2017 Outlook: New coach Tubby Smith looks to get the Tigers back on the right track after Pastner wore out his welcome. Former blue chip prospect, sophomore Dedric Lawson, is preseason co-Player of the Year in the AAC. The Tigers were picked to finish 5th in the AAC.
Prediction: Lawson will be a handful for Tyler Cook, but Memphis is not terribly deep behind him. I actually like Iowa to come out of Florida with a win here or against Providence. WIN
TBA: Providence (November 26th, Neutral)
2016 Summary: 24-11 (10-8 Big East); NCAA Round of 32 loss to North Carolina
2017 Outlook: Providence is looking to take a step back after losing NBA draft picks Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. They are picked to finish 9th out of 10 teams in a crowded Big East.
Prediction: Providence is not terribly deep and they haven’t needed to be with two NBA guys on the roster. I think Iowa’s depth is good for a second-day game against Memphis or Providence. WIN
Notre Dame (November 29th, Away)
2016 Summary: 24-12 (11-7 ACC); Elite 8 loss to North Carolina
2017 Outlook: Notre Dame is in a similar situation to Providence in that they lost elite PG Demetrius Jackson, after he declared early for the NBA draft. All-NCAA Regional forward V.J. Beachem returns, but the consensus seems to be that the Irish will take a step back this year. They were picked to finish 7th in the ACC and are likely a bubble NCAA team.
Prediction: I would fully feel confident picking the Hawks if this game were at home. But it will be many players’ first time in a hostile arena. I think Notre Dame wins a squeaker. LOSS
Nebraska-Omaha (December 3rd, Home)
2016 Summary: 18-14 (10-6 Summit); CBI First Round loss to Duquesne
2017 Outlook: Surprise! UNO is actually pretty good so they are not an automatic W like some of the other mid-majors on this list. In fact, they were on a path to the NCAA bid until falling in the conference tournament last year. Senior guard Tra-Deon Hollins is the reigning Summit League defensive player of the year and preseason all-1st team Summit.
Prediction: Hollins will be an interesting matchup for any of the Hawkeye guards. UNO played teams like Colorado and Minnesota very close on the road last year so they won’t be intimidated. I’m hoping the Hawks don’t get cocky by the name on the jersey. But Peter Jok shouldn’t let that happen at this stage in his career. WIN
Stetson (December 5th, Home)
2016 Summary: 12-22 (4-10 Atlantic Sun); no postseason
2017 Outlook: Stetson is looking to make an improvement on an unimpressive season last year. Forward Derick Newton was the A-Sun Freshman of the Year. The Hatters (*double-checks*...yes the Hatters) are picked to finish 5th out of 8 in the conference.
Prediction: One last tune-up before the Iowa State game. WIN
Iowa State (December 8th, Home)
2016 Summary: 23-12 (10-8 Big 12); NCAA Sweet 16 loss to Virginia
2017 Outlook: All-American PG Monte Morris leads the Cyclones in Steve Prohm’s sophomore season, this time without Georges Niang. The Cyclones should have an outstanding backcourt with Morris, Matt Thomas, Naz Long, and Deonte Burton. They will lack in size, but they should be able to stretch defenses like crazy.
Prediction: Damn I really want to pick Iowa in this game. We don’t need to remind ourselves of last year’s second Hilton collapse in a row (although Jarrod Uthoff put on one of the most amazing halves of basketball I have ever seen). The fact is that Fran is 1-5 against ISU. ISU’s guards will likely take it right at Iowa and will win, yet again. LOSS
Northern Iowa (December 17th, Neutral)
2016 Summary: 23-13 (11-7 Missouri Valley); NCAA Round of 32 loss to Texas A&M (in what is the most jaw-dropping comeback in NCAA history, which came after an almost-as-amazing first-round win)
2017 Outlook: Iowa City native Jeremy Morgan leads the Panthers as the preseason MVC Player of the Year. UNI will be trying to replace Wes Washpun and Paul Jesperson, but UNI is still UNI. They may be picked 3rd in the MVC, but they always are bound to surprise someone.
Prediction: I never feel good about the UNI game. And frankly, Iowa generally does not look great in the Big 4 Classic for whatever reason. I think Iowa drops this one. LOSS
North Dakota (December 20th, Home)
2016 Summary: 17-16 (10-8 Big Sky); CIT First Round loss to UC-Irvine
2017 Outlook: Once again, surprise! North Dakota is also a pretty formidable mid-major test. UND is picked to finish third in the Big Sky this year. They are led by preseason Big Sky Player of the Year, Quinton Hooker, who had an amazing 2015-16 stat line (20.1 points/game, 4.9 rebounds/game, 3.5 assists/game, and 1.9 steals/game).
Prediction: I’d feel more nervous about this one if Iowa wasn’t coming off a frustrating loss to UNI. I think they refocus and finish the non-conference strong. WIN
Delaware State (December 22nd, Home)
2016 Summary: 7-25 (5-11 MEAC); no postseason
2017 Outlook: Delaware State was the one of the worst in 2016. Sophomore PG, Devin Moore, was named preseason 2nd team all-MEAC for this season, and DeAndre Haywood was named 3rd team, but Delaware State was picked 12th out of 13 teams in what is one of the worst leagues in the country. It is not looking good for the Hornets.
Prediction: This one should be one last confidence-builder for the youngins before B1G play hits. WIN
So, there ya have it. I have the Hawkeyes penciled in for 8-5. The non-conference will have its share of bumps and bruises. I think the Hawkeyes could very well beat one of the big dogs on their schedule, like Seton Hall or ISU, but could very well lose to one of the better mid-majors like UNO or UND. This will be an interesting season, to say the least. Whatever the result, the Hawkeyes will be plenty battle-tested for the B1G. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.