Busting Brackets

Iowa Hawkeyes: Season Preview


Apr 4, 2013; New York, NY, USA; The Baylor Bears celebrate after the second half of the championship game of the 2013 NIT basketball tournament against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Madison Square Garden. Baylor won the game 74-54 Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

To kick off the month of August in style, we here at Busting Brackets will be previewing one team a day for the entire month. The teams will range from big conferences to mid majors, to the smaller conferences who might not always get the coverage their fans would hope.

These previews will help all the fans out there get ready and excited for a new college basketball season (and post July, things slow to a halt in terms of major news in CBB). Who will be the next Florida Gulf Coast? Which teams will disappoint over the course of the season? We will have all these answers for you.

To start it off, we will go with a team from the Big Ten conference that should look to make major strides after a tough 2012-13 season, the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Last season, the Hawkeyes had a strong 25-13 record but only went 9-9 in conference play. They were right on the bubble when it came to selection Sunday but ultimately, they were left off the NCAA tournament bracket. Instead, the Hawkeyes ended up in the NIT where they went all the way to the finals, losing to a strong Baylor squad. What was a relatively young squad last year is returning all of its key players for the upcoming season, giving them a nice sense of familiarity that should help Iowa start off the year as strongly as they ended last season.

Key Departures: None

Key Additions: Peter Jok, Shooting Guard (3*)


The Hawkeyes are a good defensive team as a whole, they all crash the boards hard and manage to pull down a lot of rebounds. While their best rebounder, Aaron White averaged only 6.2 rebounds per game, the team was 10th in the nation in rebounding. That signifies that the effort and commitment to pulling down every loose ball is there from all players on the floor.

Offensively, the Hawkeyes will return all of their top scorers. Guard Roy Devyn-Marble will be looked on to carry a major part of the offense by himself. He averaged 15 points per game last season and shot .409% from the field. Devyn-Marble is a player who is not afraid to shoot the ball in key situations and has a knack for making big shots at big moments. Their second leading scorer from last year, White, will be counted on to provide scoring from the inside. A combination of an improved Devyn-Marble and White would be a very strong one-two punch in the Big Ten.

Aside from those two, Mike Gesell will look to add on what was an impressive freshman season. The combo guard saw his minutes steadily increase as he gained head coach Fran McCaffery’s trust with his solid play. If Gesell can get his average up above the ten points per game notch, the Hawkeyes could become a much more potent offensive team. A combination of a strong defense to go along with a fast paced offensive system would make the Hawkeyes a deadly match up for anyone in the nation and they should not be taken lightly.

From a coaching perspective, the Hawkeyes have a good one in Fran McCaffery. This will be his fifth season at Iowa and he has so far posted a 305-228 record while at the school. McCaffery is a high integrity coach who develops his players along patiently and demands high levels of effort in fundamentals in every recruit’s game. Strategically he is no slouch and his coaching staff runs a game plan very effectively.


While Devyn-Marble is a great player, the Hawkeyes are a little low on star power. They don’t have a player who could drop 40 points at any given time and they have to rely on the break and on running plays to get easy buckets. Having a player who can just take the ball and score with it every now and then is important for teams that hope to do well in March. Sometimes, the game breaks down and you need somebody to make something happen, Iowa is lacking that kind of guy.

Another aspect where the Hawkeyes could really use help is in their paint defense and inside toughness. While Adam Woodbury had a decent freshman season, the 7”1 center does not have the killer instinct required to be a high efficiency player in the middle. His limited athleticism hurts his ability to block shots or run the court and he is simply not effective enough in the post to be an offensive threat. As mentioned above, Iowa rebounds the ball well as a team but it would not hurt them to have a big man who they can rely on every single time to box out his man and stop offensive possessions. Woodbury will get his chance to prove that he can be a full time starter as he is the only real center on the roster who is expected to get much playing time. The Hawkeyes also have 6”10 Junior Gabriel Olaseni but he is still quite raw and is not able to be left on the court for extended periods of time.

Ultimately, their biggest weakness probably comes down to the fact that Iowa simply does not have a natural point guard. When it comes down to grinding out wins, an effective decision maker is an important element to a team. He is the one who runs plays and he is the one who knows where the ball should go. Iowa does not have that guy and it often leads to break downs on the offensive end and long scoreless droughts. Devyn-Marble is the de facto primary ball handler and he led the team in assists last year with three per game. It’s easy to see when watching him that he is not comfortable in that role. While he understands the game, Devyn-Marble does not have a point guard’s vision and that is something that can’t really be learned.

Expectations for next season:

Because the Hawkeyes ended last season on a high note and seemed to really gel together, they should probably be expected to play similarly this season. Since they are not losing any of their players who logged heavy minutes and their only recruit, Jok, probably won’t be playing too much, this team should already know what works. In the world of college basketball where rosters vary so much from year to year, knowing the system and your teammates right off the bat is a built in advantage.

Iowa should have no problem with their non conference schedule and should head into their conference play with a strong record. Assuming they can stay above .500 in the big ten, they should be able to punch their ticket to their first tournament appearance since 2006. Odds are that they won’t leap frog Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State, but Indiana is losing two of their best players and Wisconsin is up in the air. They could have a very good chance at finishing fourth in one of the country’s toughest basketball conference which would easily get them a seed in the tournament.

As far as advancing past the first round of the NCAA tourney, all bets are off. It is not likely that they will and it really would depend on what kind of team they were to draw. If Iowa matches up with a tough defensive squad that can force turnovers and really shut down offenses, they will probably meet their doom. Their best hope would be to faceoff against a high powered offense that plays at a fast pace, those are the types of teams that Iowa can shut down as well as score on.

On an individual basis, Devyn-Marble could play himself onto an all Big Ten team. He will be given the keys to the offense and the team will go as he goes. If he has an even bigger year than last year, he might even generate some NBA talk because his ability to score the ball is comparable to some of the best players in the nation. He will just have to prove it on the court. If the Hawkeyes want to see March Madness for the first time in this decade, Devyn-Marble will need to become that kind of star.