LOCATION: Iowa City, IA
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
LAST SEASON: 20-10 (.667)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 9-7 (t-3rd)
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 4/1
COLORS: Gold & Black
HOMECOURT: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500)
COACH: Steve Alford (Indiana '87)
record at school First year
career record 156-77 (8 years)
ASSISTANTS: Sam Alford (Franklin '64)|
Rich Walker (Bowling Green '71)
Greg Lansing (South Dakota '90)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 21-23-22-20-20
RPI (last 5 years) 55-28-34-74-13
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NCAA Sweet 16.
At some schools in Division I, 20 victories will lead to a raise. On the banks of the Iowa River, it led to an inevitable raise in expectations and, finally, to Tom Davis' departure. After 269 victories, but no Big Ten titles in 13 seasons, Davis was dumped by athletic director Bob Bowlsby and allowed a farewell tour of the conference. And what a tour that was, with the Hawkeyes stunning Kansas in Lawrence precisely the kind of scheduling risk that could have saved Davis' job a few years earlier. Players and coaches pulled together and contended for the Big Ten title in January and finished in a respectable tie for third. But Davis saved the best for last, beating UAB and Arkansas as a fifth-seeded entry in the East Region of NCAA Tournament, then scaring eventual champion Connecticut. That surge didn't change anyone's mind, though another two victories and a Final Four berth would have done more than put Bowlsby on defense. He might have felt like the only man back against a three-on-one fast break. Instead, he wasted little time in switching to another Sweet 16 coach, one with darker hair and a much better jump shot. Former Indiana All-America guard Steve Alford was hired after a 78-29 record in four seasons at Manchester College and a 78-48 record in four years at Southwest Missouri State, ending with a 22-11 effort. The epicenter of that earthquake wasn't in Iowa but in Bloomington, Ind. One of Bob Knight's most popular players was back in the Big Ten and wouldn't be wearing Crimson & Cream. For those who say Alford can cut his teeth in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, then return to his alma mater, there's only one problem. Why would he want to follow a legend when he can build his own and own the state? Iowa State thought alumnus and All-World wrestler Dan Gable would return to Ames eventually, too. And he did, to help his Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones into submission every chance he got. So don't let anyone sing that Iowa-to-Indiana song. Alford arrived with plans for a Big Ten program at Iowa, not IU.
Fans of the Hawkeyes embraced Alford, who seems to be omnipresent these days. The first tangible sign of his popularity was an early commitment from Iowa City West High forward Glen Worley, one of the nation's top 40 prospects. And Alford isn't afraid to go after the best players in other areas, a must in a state without a Peoria, Ill., or a Flint, Mich. Iowa's team will certainly have a new style and might even win a championship of substance, something more significant than the Hawkeye Classic. Fans have seen the last of Dr. Tom's famous bounce passes and end-to-end pressure with players leaning over the baseline. Alford promises an up-tempo system but might not be able to implement everything he would like until he can shape the roster to his liking. His coaching staff includes the man who knows him best, Sam Alford, Steve's dad and his coach at New Castle Chrysler High in Indiana. Also appointed were Rich Walker, a holdover with nine years experience, and Greg Lansing, a former assistant at Indiana State whose father was a successful high school coach in Iowa. They will have to go out and sign some players seven of last year's top 10 scorers and rebounders are gone. It doesn't help that the Hawkeyes won't have a freshman on the roster. You do the math. Forward J.R. Koch (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) was a second-round pick of the New York Knicks. Oft-injured forward Jess Settles (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and guard Kent McCausland (8.6 ppg, .421 3 PT) were weighing their options in mid-September. And forward Sam Okey (6.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg), a transfer from Wisconsin, went to play in Turkey. Guard Jason Bauer (2.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg) graduated. Center Guy Rucker (6.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg), academically ineligible as a freshman, didn't graduate in four years and wasn't eligible for another season. And swingman Joey Range (7.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) took his battles with the books to Hutchinson Junior College. But Iowa is lucky to have a point guard like 5-11 junior Dean Oliver, a third-team All-Big Ten choice as a sophomore despite shooting just .401 from the field. The smooth left-hander led the Hawkeyes with 11.9 points, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He also averaged 3.5 rebounds, not bad for someone his size. The shooting guard could be 6-5 sophomore Kyle Galloway, who redshirted last season with a back injury, then had a great summer. He averaged 4.2 points as a freshman and started the final five games. If Galloway can't go all the way, there's 6-1 senior Ryan Luehrsmann (5.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 72 assists). He can play either guard spot and started 16 games as a junior. Barring a calamity, the center will be 6-8 sophomore Jacob Jaacks (6.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), a physical player who must believe he has an unlimited number of fouls to give. In his first trip around the league, he immediately became one of the Big Ten's most unpopular players. Alford decided not to sign any second-tier freshmen and brought three older players to Iowa City. The best-known addition is Kentucky transfer Ryan Hogan, a 6-3 shooter who nearly became a Hawkeye two years ago and is willing to sit out this season to make that a reality. The other two newcomers are junior-college players. At least one should start. Rob Griffin (22.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.3 apg) was eighth in the nation in junior college scoring for Southeastern (Iowa) Community College. He is a 6-6 junior forward and earned second-team All-America honors. And Joe Fermino (12.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg), a 6-7 junior forward, helped Barton County (Kan.) Community College reach the JUCO national title game. Back to fight for a starting assignment is 6-7 sophomore forward Duez Henderson (2.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 5.4 minutes). The other returnees are 6-0 senior guard Jason Price (1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg), 6-6 senior forward Marcelo Gomes (0.3 ppg, 0.0 rpg), 6-3 junior guard Jason Smith (0.4 ppg, 0.9 rpg), 6-6 sophomore forward Rod Thompson (1.0 ppg, 0.4 rpg) and 7-2 center Antonio Ramos (0.7 ppg, 0.3 rpg), a project in the truest sense of the word. If this year's Iowa team struggles, as it likely will, Alford can always sell hope and the future. The market had dried up for 20-victory seasons and replays of the past.
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT B- BENCH/DEPTH D|
FRONTCOURT C- INTANGIBLES B-
If Dean Oliver continues to mature and becomes a better shooter, the Hawkeyes have a chance to steal some games. But someone (Rob Griffin?) will have to emerge as another offensive option. Jacob Jaacks becomes a key player as an enforcer under the basket. But he has to play a lot smarter and not risk silly fouls. He can't help anyone on the bench. Iowa will open the season against Connecticut in the IKON Classic in Madison Square Garden, then will play either Duke or Stanford. Maryland, Missouri and Kansas are among the other nonleague opponents. It's a tough time to be a Hawkeye, with a tougher transition in progress in football. Iowa fans just need to be patient. In Alford's first season at Manchester, his team was 4-16. Three years later, it was 31-1.
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