We already knew most of the teams Iowa would be playing in the non-conference slate -- and when and where those games would take place -- but Iowa officially announced the non-conference portion of the schedule for the 2015-16 Iowa basketball team today. There aren't any exciting surprises; as expected, the teams we didn't know yet are all smaller school teams coming to Iowa City to collect a paycheck (and, hopefully, an L in the loss column). The full schedule is below:
|October 29, 2015||Sioux Falls (exhib)||Iowa City, IA||n/a||n/a|
|November 6, 2015||Augustana (exhib)||Iowa City, IA||n/a||n/a|
|November 13, 2015||Gardner-Webb||Iowa City, IA||197||154|
|November 15, 2015||Coppin State||Iowa City, IA||322||311|
|November 19, 2015||Marquette||Milwaukee, IA||110||145|
|November 26, 2015||Dayton||Orlando, FL||37||29|
|November 27, 2015||Notre Dame*||Orlando, FL||9||10|
|November 29, 2015||TBA||Orlando, FL||n/a||n/a|
|December 2, 2015||Florida State||Iowa City, IA||97||110|
|December 5, 2015||UMKC||Iowa City, IA||284||293|
|December 7, 2015||Western Illinois||Iowa City, IA||326||328|
|December 10, 2015||Iowa State||Ames, IA||18||16|
|December 19, 2015||Drake||Des Moines, IA||258||259|
|December 22, 2015||Tennessee Tech||Iowa City, IA||249||288|
Iowa opens the season with a pair of exhibitions against teams from South Dakota, Sioux Falls and Augustana. Both exhibitions are open to the public and should provide us with our first glimpses of Iowa's sizable freshman class (plus JUCO newcomer Dale Jones).
Iowa's first real game is against Gardner-Webb on Friday, November 13th (in what's shaping up to be a massive Iowa sports weekend, given the football game with Minnesota on November 14th and the outdoor wrestling dual meet also planned for the 14th). Gardner-Webb is a decent opening act for Iowa hoops -- they went 20-15 a year ago and made the CBI. They should be good enough to make Iowa sweat, at least. (Although hopefully not as much as the last time they played Iowa, a 66-56 Iowa win in 2012 that involved a 23-point Hawkeye comeback.)
That busy Iowa sports weekend I referred to continues with Iowa's next real game, against Coppin State on Sunday, November 15th. Coppin State was dreadful last year (8-23, RPI/KP both north of 300), which is pretty typical for them. They should be one of the worst teams Iowa faces all season and this should be a good opportunity for the freshmen to get some minutes.
The challenging portion of Iowa's non-conference slate starts a few days later with a trip to Milwaukee to take on Marquette in one of the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big Ten and Big East this year. Marquette was not very good last year (13-19), but they return several key players and welcome a top-ten recruiting class (led by ESPN's #5 overall recruit, PF Henry Ellenson). They should be much improved from their 145 RPI this season. Iowa probably gets them at the best possible time, too -- before they have a chance to gel and become a really formidable opponent. A win here could pay big RPI dividends for Iowa in March. We wrote more about the Marquette game right here.
After that, Iowa heads to Orlando for three games at the Advocare International non-conference tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. They open up with Dayton on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 26); if they win that, they'll play the winner of Notre Dame-Monmouth in the next round (Friday, November 27). I feel safe penciling in Notre Dame for that game, assuming Iowa can get past the Flyers. Wichita State is the top team on the other side of the bracket; if Iowa's able to make the championship game (on Sunday, November 29), I'd bank on them playing either the Shockers or Xavier. The other two teams in the field are Alabama and USC, who Iowa could see in the 5th or 7th place game.
Iowa has a lot of recent history with several of those teams; they memorably beat Dayton in the NIT four years ago (Iowa's first postseason win a in a very long time) and knocked off Notre Dame in a high-scoring tilt in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge two years ago (Iowa's first win in that event in a very long time). Iowa has also played Xavier and Wichita State in other non-conference tournaments in recent years, and even Alabama was a non-conference tournament foe back in the Lickliter years. We also wrote more about Iowa playing in this event back when their involvement was confirmed several months ago.
Speaking of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, after Iowa returns from Orlando, they'll dive into that event for a game with Florida State on Wednesday, December 2. Florida State has a somewhat Marquette-ish vibe to them: mediocre a year ago (17-15), but with a lot of returning talent and a top-20 recruit (the delightfully-named Dwayne Bacon). They also have a seven-game losing streak in this event -- let's make it eight. We wrote more about this matchup when it was officially announced back in May.
After FSU, Iowa gets a breather in terms of opponent quality, although not in terms of game frequency -- they play UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansas City) on Saturday, December 5 and Western Illinois on Monday, December 7. If Coppin State isn't the worst team on Iowa's schedules, figure that one of these teams will be the worst. WIU was surprisingly good in 2013 (they went 22-9), but that was definitely an aberration for them -- they're usually hanging out near the bottom of the KenPom and RPI rankings. UMKC is another habitual bottom feeder, although they at least have a fun nickname (the Kangaroos!).
Iowa's final non-conference test comes shortly after that, with a trip to Ames (Iowa's
only second true road game in non-conference play) to take on Iowa State on Thursday, December 10. The Cyclones are Hoiberg-less, but they return almost everyone of significance from last year's squad and are expected to be very, very good again. I would be surprised if they weren't the best team Iowa faces in the non-conference, so they'll be a tremendous test for Iowa, especially in Ames. Iowa State has owned this series recently (they've won 5 of the last 6), so ending that reign of terror would be nice -- and even sweeter if it came against maybe the best ISU team in that stretch.
Iowa closes out the non-conference portion of the schedule with a neutral-site game against Drake on Saturday, December 19 and a home game versus Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, December 22. The Drake game is part of this year's Big Four Classic. Drake was pretty dismal last year (9-22), but... maybe they won't be this year? I dunno. We know they're pretty much starting from the bottom, though. Tennessee Tech was also pretty lousy a year ago (12-18), but they've been more respectable in other recent years (20-13 in 2011, 19-14 in 2012, 17-16 in 2014). The Drake and Tennessee Tech games may give us an idea of which freshmen are likely to be contributors this season.
RPI 1-50: 3
RPI 51-100: 0
RPI 101-200: 3
RPI 201-300: 3
RPI 300+: 2
Overall, this is a pretty solid non-conference slate. Iowa State, Dayton, and (probably) Notre Dame should give it some real top-end quality (ditto Wichita State if Iowa can play them in Orlando) and Marquette and Florida State are teams with the potential to make this schedule look much better at the end of the year. Both fell in the RPI 100+ category last year, but they should move into at least the RPI 51-100 category this year. It would be nice to move a few of the RPI 201-300 games into the RPI 101-200 tier and I'd just as soon avoid the absolute garbage from the RPI 300+ teams (who hurt your RPI just by existing), but at least there are fewer of those teams on this schedule. This is a schedule that offers quite a bit of opportunity for Iowa -- there are 4-5 games here that could look excellent on Iowa's resume come March -- and overall it should provide a pretty solid RPI number for Iowa. Now we just have to see how good this Iowa team can be and if they can take advantage of this schedule.