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Do the Hat(ter) Dance!

You're targeting a #3 seed, Fran?  Well, OK...
You're targeting a #3 seed, Fran? Well, OK...
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa announced their full slate of non-conference opponents today, but since we knew most of the information already, this was really just dotting the i's and crossing the t's, so to speak.  We now know which two teams Iowa will be playing in preliminary games in the Emerald Coast Classic (Savannah State and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley) and we know which two teams will be filling out Iowa's non-conference schedule (Stetson and Delaware State).  The good news?  Iowa has never played either opponent before -- fresh faces!  The bad news?  Neither team is very good at all, so don't get too excited about heading to CHA to see them play.

Here's the full schedule of opponents.  Start times and TV information for most games is still TBD.

Friday, November 11 Kennesaw State Iowa City, IA 11-20 249 258
Sunday, November 13 Savannah State Iowa City, IA 16-16 325 286
Thursday, November 17 Seton Hall Iowa City, IA 25-9 22 23
Sunday, November 20 Texas-Rio Grande Valley Iowa City, IA 8-22 347 335
Friday, November 25 Virginia Niceville, FL 29-8 3 4
Saturday, November 26 Memphis OR* Niceville, FL 19-15 72 140
Saturday, November 26 Providence* Niceville, FL 24-11 44 32
Tuesday, November 29 Notre Dame South Bend, IN 24-12 35 32
Saturday, December 3 Nebraska-Omaha Iowa City, IA 18-14 148 149
Monday, December 5 Stetson Iowa City, IA 12-22 263 300
Thursday, December 8 Iowa State Iowa City, IA 23-12 16 21
Saturday, December 17 UNI Des Moines, IA 23-13 66 65
Tuesday, December 20 North Dakota Iowa City, IA 17-16 192 221
Thursday, December 22 Delaware State Iowa City, IA 7-25 348 345

* Iowa will be playing Memphis OR Providence in the Emerald Coast Classic, which one it is will be depend on the result of the Iowa-Virginia and Memphis-Providence games on 11/25.

Four thoughts about the non-conference schedule:

1) There should be plenty of early tests for Iowa. If Iowa plays Providence in the Emerald Coast Classic, they could play six teams that were RPI 65 or better in 2015-16. Obviously many of those teams likely won't be as good as they were last season -- Seton Hall and Providence lost key players to the NBA Draft, while Iowa State, Virginia, UNI, and Notre Dame all had some critical players graduate -- but barring complete collapses, they should still be pretty challenging opponents next fall. Given Iowa's own question marks and inexperience, we should get a good look within the first 4-6 weeks of the season at how Iowa stacks up against good competition.

2) In general, Iowa avoided scheduling the most schedule-rotting cupcakes. I'm giving them a pass on Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley since I don't know how much (if any) freedom they had when it came to which teams they faced in the preliminary games of the Emerald Coast Classic. And it's not like the teams the other teams they could have played in those games -- St. Francis NY (KP 280, RPI 273) or Grambling State (KP 346, RPI 350) -- were any good, either. Just looking at the cupcakes Iowa scheduled themselves -- Kennesaw State, Nebraska-Omaha, Stetson, North Dakota, and Delaware State -- they're not that bad by cupcake standards, with the exception of Delaware State, who would be a true RPI bomb if next year's Hornets team is as bad as the 2015-16 version. But three of the last five Delaware State teams have ended the year with KenPom and RPI ratings in the 200s, which would at least be a step up from a bottom of the barrel ranking in the 300s.  Nebraska-Omaha could be a sneaky-tough game -- they gave Iowa all they wanted in 2014-15 -- and North Dakota features not one, but two former Hawkeye connections in head coach Brian Jones (assistant at Iowa from 2002-06) and assistant coach Jeff Horner (player at Iowa from 2003-06), which should add some extra intrigue to the game.  And, hell, playing Stetson -- the Hatters! -- should at least give us ample opportunity to make hat-related puns.

3) Avoid the tryptophan. The most pivotal stretch for Iowa in non-conference action looks like a two-week stretch beginning after Thanksgiving. Iowa will play six games in 14 days over that span, including Virginia, Memphis or Providence, Notre Dame, and Iowa State (with Nebraska-Omaha and Stetson thrown in for good measure).  That stretch should test Iowa's depth and their ability to make quick turnarounds, as well as their ability to avoid letdowns (that Omaha game could be awful trap game-y) and see how well they fare against quality opponents.

4) How many wins are here for Iowa? Let's assume that Iowa wins the seven home games against cupcake opponents -- they should do that.  That leaves six remaining non-conference games, two at home (Iowa State, Seton Hall), three at neutral sites (Virginia, Providence/Memphis, UNI), and one on the road (Notre Dame).  Can Iowa win at least three of those games? Doing that seems like it would probably put them in pretty solid shape heading into the Big Ten season.  They went 3-3 in their non-cupcake non-con games last year, beating Marquette, Wichita State, and Florida State and losing to Dayton, Notre Dame, and Iowa State.

Meanwhile, we don't have the dates for the games against Iowa's Big Ten opponents, but we do know who Iowa will be playing -- and where.

Date TBA Illinois Iowa City, IA 15-19 132 151
Date TBA Illinois Champaign, IL 15-19 132 151
Date TBA Indiana Iowa City, IA 27-8 15 19
Date TBA Maryland Iowa City, IA 27-9 25 13
Date TBA Maryland College Park, MD 27-9 25 13
Date TBA Michigan Iowa City, IA 23-13 58 58
Date TBA Michigan State East Lansing, MI 29-6 5 12
Date TBA Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 8-23 223 264
Date TBA Nebraska Iowa City, IA 16-18 98 164
Date TBA Nebraska Lincoln, NE 16-18 98 164
Date TBA Northwestern Evanston, IL 20-12 78 117
Date TBA Ohio State Iowa City, IA 21-14 80 78
Date TBA Penn State Iowa City, IA 16-16 146 121
Date TBA Purdue Iowa City, IA 26-9 14 17
Date TBA Purdue West Lafayette, IN 26-9 14 17
Date TBA Rutgers Iowa City, IA 7-25 291 293
Date TBA Rutgers Piscataway, NJ 7-25 291 293
Date TBA Wisconsin Madison, WI 22-13 33 36

We already delved into Iowa's Big Ten opponents a bit a few weeks ago, so I don't think we need to rehash that discussion too much right now.  Suffice to say, this appears to be a pretty manageable schedule for Iowa in league play -- 6 of their 18 conference games are against Rutgers, Nebraska (now without their leading scorer from a year ago), and Illinois. It's hard to complain too much about a schedule where 1/3 of the games are against teams that finished 11th, 12th, and 14th in the Big Ten a year ago.

Can Iowa get 10-11 wins from this schedule?  If they can do that -- and get around 10 wins in non-league play -- I think there's a good chance that they'll play themselves into contention for a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. They may need at least one win in the Big Ten Tournament to firm up their odds (which is somewhat of an ulcer-inducing proposition, given Iowa's recent tortured history in the BTT, but we'll cross that bridge if we need to next March), but 20-21 wins and an overall pretty solid RPI should hopefully have them in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid.

What do you think?