When Fran McCaffery was introduced as Iowa’s next head coach, he came to Iowa City promising and uptempo offense that was going to excite the fanbase. But more importantly, he promised to make Hawkeye fans mad again. Of course, he was talking about getting back to March Madness, though we would soon learn that he was also planning to get literally mad.
During his first few years, he made strides toward that goal with each passing year. In his first yea, despite a record similar to what Iowa fans saw under Todd Lickliter at just 11-20, Hawkeye fans could feel the difference. The style of play was better and things were moving in the right direction as evidenced by a 67-65 win over #6 Purdue in the regular season finale in Carver.
The next season, Fran had Iowa back to their first winning record since REDACTED left town and the Hawkeyes were back to a place they hadn’t been in seven years: the postseason. In year three, Iowa ripped off 25 wins in what would be the season that turned the corner for the program.
Seven years ago today, the Hawkeyes took down Maryland, then of the ACC, in the semifinals of the NIT at Madison Square Garden. It was a 71-60 victory for Iowa, who was led by junior Roy Devyn Marble with a game-high 21 points.
It was a hell of a lot of fun as an Iowa fan. Marble did it from all over, but the Iowa offense was exciting wire to wire. Aaron White and Eric May each got into double figures as well with some exhilarating dunks. In total, 9 Hawkeyes scored with Adam Woodbury and Zach McCabe adding 9 and 7 respectively.
Iowa would go on to lose to Baylor in the championship game, but the run was the start of the resurgence in the program. Fran had laid the foundation by keeping Dev Marble in year one, but things really took off when he was able to keep highly sought after recruits like Mike Gessell and Adam Woodbury at home heading into that 2012-2013 season.
The Hawkeyes would go on to make the NCAA Tournament each of the next three seasons. With the NCAA Tournament monkey off the program’s back and a baseline set, the next goal of advancing to a Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1999 now lies ahead.