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The Optimist’s Guide to Iowa Basketball

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We’re here for a good time, not a long time

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Iowa vs Tennessee Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The last time we saw the Hawkeyes play basketball they nearly completed one of the biggest, more greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament History by coming ALL THE WAY BACK from 25-points down against Tennessee (who were an overtime loss away from going to the Elite Eight) to force overtime.

Haters will tell you Iowa shouldn’t have been in that type of situation to begin with. But this is basketball that we’re talking about. Stuff happens. Runs happen. Elite performances happen.

And when they do, how often do you see a team just quit when they get down by that much? How often do we see the soul just get ripped out of their bodies?

MOST OF THE TIME!

But not this team. Not these guys.

And that’s where I, Captain Optimism, want to start. Go up and down the roster. Name me one dude that’s soft. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

That’s not the type of dude Fran McCaffery recruits or develops. Take Jordan Bohannon as the PRIME example of this. The dude played 30+ games last season with the bum hip and still was able to put on his cape and push Iowa over the edge game in and game out. After that Tennessee loss, he elected to have surgery that has a 6-8 month recovery time but instead, he’s out playing in secret exhibition games five months later. Let that sink in for one more moment.

Guys, our senior, do it all point-gawd just had surgery on his effing hip in May and despite having every reason to redshirt and rest and get right over the next year, he’s already on the court playing in real Division I basketball games.

The dude doesn’t even know how to spell the word quit.

Even if he and McCaffery decide to shut it down further down the road, the sheer fact that he’s out there trying to soldier on with his guys is the type of mentality that Iowa fans should embrace for however much longer we have with him.

Surrounding him is best friend Ryan Kriener, a do-it-all spark plug that literally makes play after play right when Iowa needs it most. Jack Nunge just took a full season off to basically add weight and muscle in hopes of putting his mark on the Big Ten conference as Iowa’s future fill in for Tyler Cook. For whatever Connor McCaffery is or isn’t on the basketball court, he brings an edge and a mentality to this team and doesn’t back down from anyone.

And if you don’t think Joe Toussaint is coming all the way from New York and bringing that chip on his shoulder with him, you’re insane.

Oh, and last I checked, this guy is their coach:

If you don’t love it, leave it.

Now, is that enough to be an NCAA Tournament team? Maybe not. But it’s enough to make everyone proud as hell at these unselfish, spirited players representing their favorite team and university. Will a lot of us (including me) get our undies in a bunch and clinch a little too tight on a weekly basis? Hell yeah, brother. But there’s a reason everyone that loves NBA basketball enjoyed the hell out of the “Grit N Grind” Grizzlies for all those years.

It’s fun as hell to watch a blue collar team rip out their beating heart and leave it on the floor after every game.

Consider this the year of the Hardihood Hawks.

But that’s not all, folks. I know that losing the idea of Tyler Cook’s ceiling might be a tough pill to swallow for some, but I beg of you to take all of that left over hope and dreams of grandeur and dump it into this guy:

THIS IS A SUPERSTAR IN THE MAKING.

THIS IS A BIG TEN ALL-AMERICAN.

It’s not really even a question at this point with Weezy... it’s an expectation. And that’s ok. We should be looking at him to take a much larger role offensively this season. This is a guy with real NBA Talent, and he’s on our team at least for this season. He can shoot, he can find his own shot, he can run off screens, he can dribble, cut, pass, yam on dudes faces and is actually a solid-as-hell defender and rebounder.

Everything you want in a college basketball player, Weezy has in spades. How can you be even slightly pessimistic about this kid? He’s what Matt Gatens should’ve been at Iowa had he played under a better coach who put him in better situations and surrounded him with actual talent.

You know I’m right. So just let the love flow through your veins.

And that’s saying nothing of Luka Garza (who, as my spectacular co-host on SpoCo Radio so aptly said this week, is going to be a wolf this season), C.J. Frederick (who is getting a lot of sleeper buzz as the underrated #2 guard of the future), Bakari Evelyn (a “calming” presence that Iowa desperately needs at the point guard position), whatever Cordell Pemsl is going to be and Patrick McCaffery (who, in theory, is challenging Weezy as the greatest prospect under Fran McCaffery).

Look, I understand that talking heads have deemed our schedule as “hard” and that’s great. It probably is difficult. But instead of freaking out about it right now, why not just take the SIU game, and then the DePaul game and then the Oral Roberts game and so on and so forth and just enjoy this group of players and see where the chips fall?

At the end of the day, McCaffery believes this team is worthy of the NCAA Tournament so that’s enough for me.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the Hardwood Hawks.