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Iowa Should Play Drake and UNI (Almost) Every Year

The death of the Hy-Vee Classic should not mean the death of these matchups

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Northern Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow marks the end of the Hy-Vee Classic, the annual milquetoast event between Iowa’s four Division I basketball programs. It really isn’t a bad thing to see it come to a close, since there was rarely any sizzle, and even less steak, in the seven-year endeavor. Here’s how the previous iterations have fared:

2012: Iowa State 86 – Drake 77; Iowa 80 – UNI 73
2013: Iowa 83 – Drake 66; Iowa State 91 – UNI 82 (OT)
2014: Iowa State 83 – Drake 54; UNI 56 – Iowa 44
2015: Iowa 70 – Drake 64; UNI 81 – Iowa State 79
2016: Iowa State 97 – Drake 80; Iowa 69 – UNI 46
2017: Iowa 90 – Drake 64; Iowa State 76 – UNI 65

Final Records
Iowa: 5-1
Iowa State: 5-1
UNI: 2-4
Drake: 0-6

The second game of the two usually provided an interesting contest as the Panthers were blown out just once, but the event didn’t necessarily result in teams staying the entirety of the UNI game. Drake was only able to lose by less than 10 twice – in the very first iteration and Nicholas Baer’s coming out party.

Overall, though: good riddance.

It took the college out of college basketball and was rarely unable to match any level of intensity seen with the on-campus games. Because of that, these games should return to a campus every year.

High level, the scheduling is pretty simple. I broke it down in a previous comment I cannot find but it is built around the current home-and-home with Iowa State:

2019: at Iowa State
2020: vs. Iowa State; at Drake
2021: at Iowa State
2022: vs. Iowa State; at UNI

Obviously, Iowa is not going to throw a bone to Drake or UNI with the road contest and not return the favor. The likely hang-up is with how many times the Hawks host each team. With a 3-1 setup for Drake and a 2-1 setup with UNI, it looks something like:

2019: at Iowa State; vs. Drake; vs. UNI
2020: vs. Iowa State; at Drake; vs. UNI
2021: at Iowa State; vs. Drake
2022: vs. Iowa State; vs. Drake; at UNI

Easy peasy. (And as Gookin noted then, it allows ISU to similarly schedule Drake and UNI)

Of course, there are plenty of other things to consider which will likely preclude Iowa from ever doing thing including: ACC/Big Ten Challenge, non-conference tournaments (3-5 games), Gavitt Tipoff every so often, 20-game conference schedule, existing rivalry with Iowa State. Really, it just leaves Iowa with 4-6 extra games to schedule. Why waste up to two of them on these guys, especially if it means a road game every other season?

  1. These are the types of games Iowa should be looking to play anyways. We have droned on about what Iowa is doing to their RPI or NET with the assembly line of sub-300 opponents. Only five of 15 years has Drake been lower than 200 according to KenPom ($). UNI has never been that low in the history of the site.
  2. Non-conference games are now events. Part of the reason Iowa fails to fill up Carver-Hawkeye Arena is they are simply playing bad opponents. We saw the type of crowd which can turn out in November with the game against Wisconsin. Even the Pittsburgh crowd has some oomph behind it. In our event-driven culture, this is a check in the box.
  3. It helps the state. Maybe this is a hokey bit from me, but there is some greater good in continuing the series. Heck, it’s the reason they started this venture in the first place. Iowa Wrestling often goes to a lesser opponent – they went to Kent State and smocked them 45-0 earlier this year – and not a fuss was raised. It’s to the whole state’s benefit.

So yeah, maybe the dollars and cents won’t line up with a certain administrator and make it difficult to execute. Maybe it means Iowa gets challenged (or loses!) in a game they otherwise wouldn’t: Iowa is 5-7 at UNI vs. 13-1 at home; 18-6 at Drake vs. 25-2 at home. Maybe it doesn’t allow the Chicago State (or equivalent) athletic department to stay afloat another year.

But sometimes it’s worth taking the bad with the good and returning the matchups back where they belong: Carver, McLeod, and Knapp.