HN Publisher Jon Miller is like many of you during this time of the year...he can't wait to get to the bookstore to purchase the latest preseason college football preview and see what the outside world has to say about Iowa and the Big Ten race. Miller talks about his early findings, in addition to how he sees the Iowa basketball program taking shape this summer...
The first college football magazines of this year are hitting the
newsstands, and the ‘outside world' views of Iowa football are always fun to
Until you realize that in some cases, such as with Lindy's and Athlon, they are not outside views; the
team previews are typically written by people that cover the Iowa football beat. Or at least, they provide
significant contributions and input to the articles.
But it's the conference rankings and positional queries that can be as
entertaining as anything else.
So when I purchased this year's Lindy's and Athlon mags recently, I went right to
their Big Ten prediction pages.
Iowa finishing 4th in the Big Ten this year,
behind Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Athlon has Iowa finishing in 5th behind Wisconsin, Michigan,
Ohio State and Penn State.
Predictably, both magazines cite Iowa's avoiding Michigan
State on this year's
schedule as being a big contributor to their predicted finish. It makes you wonder where they would tab
Iowa if the
schedule makers hadn't been so kind, doesn't it?
Think about that for a second.
As it is now, a fourth or fifth place finish in the Big Ten doesn't sound
so horrible after the past two seasons have seen Iowa go 13-13 overall and a combined 7-9 in
Big Ten play.
Chew on that for a second; Iowa is 7-9 in Big Ten
play over the course of the past two seasons. I don't know how often that has been
bandied about this offseason.
People have brought up the 13-13 mark, but not the Big Ten breakout. Four of those nine losses have come at
the hands of Ohio State and Michigan, if that is any consolation for
you. But three of the losses
have come at the hands of Northwestern (twice) and Indiana. Wisconsin and Minnesota make up the other two losses during
So the Hawks miss out on playing the Buckeyes and Wolverines, and the
bottom half of the Big Ten appears to be very beatable this year…very
Stewart Mandell of CNN/SI said this of the Big Ten in a recent mailbag
"…the league has gone back to being top-heavy. Michigan, Wisconsin and
Ohio State could all be top-10 teams, Penn State won't be far off, but then there's a
pretty drastic drop-off. I do expect Iowa to do
a bit of damage, but nearly half the teams the league (Michigan State, Minnesota,
Northwestern, Illinois and Indiana) are basically
If Stewart has it right, those last five teams that he lists are all on
Iowa's schedule, and all of those games are not only winnable this year, but are
probably in the must-win category.
That is, if Iowa is going to rebound the way that the fans
want it to.
Games at Penn
State and Wisconsin will be very
hard to win, with a roadie at Purdue being a big challenge as well.
It's going to be a fun season to watch, because if Iowa holds serve at home, if it can go 1-2 in conference
road games and if it can beat Iowa
State in Ames, we are talking about a possible 10-2
season and a return trip to a January bowl game.
The good thing about that scenario is that it's not far fetched. It's not a given, either, but we are not
talking about incredible odds to see that happen. A 9-3 finish seems quite
The best news of all is that we are roughly 55 days away from the Big Ten
Kickoff Luncheon event in Chicago, which for me is the unofficial
beginning of the college football season.
That means we are under 90 days out from the season opener in Chicago against Northern
Illinois. That game
will kickoff at 2:30pm on ESPNU, by the way.
Todd Lickliter has added a new player to his recruiting Class of 2008, or
what will be considered his first ‘real' recruiting class as Iowa's head coach. That leaves about 7 or 8 rides to
fill in the next 17 months, one of the most important transition periods in
basketball history. Lickliter will
have a chance to put his fingerprints all over this program in very short
The latest Hawkeye, 6-4, 180-pound shooter Anthony Tucker from Minnetonka, MN is
considered to be one of the best shooters in the Midwest, according to my friend Van Coleman of cstv.com
We are beginning to see the future of Iowa's backcourt take shape, and it appears to
be one that will be different from the Steve Alford era.
I said on more than one occasion during Alford's time in Iowa City that his teams
couldn't shoot straight.
Sure, there would be a Luke Recker, Brody Boyd, Jeff Horner and an Adam
Haluska along the way, but that's about it as far as shooters go. Ryan Hogan was in the mix, but he was
hampered by injuries.
Horner got hot over a 12-month period of his Iowa career where he hit
better than 50 percent of his three's, but he could be streaky. Haluska could go 2-11 from three one
game then hit 5-8 the next game.
Such is the way with shooters.
But Lickliter's Butler teams have been more consistent, and
more importantly, the majority of the players he puts on the floor can make jump
shots. That creates more space on
the floor for the big men in the paint.
You extend defenses to chase you wherever the ball is on the perimeter,
because the shooters can hurt you.
That's a scenario that I hope is shaping up in Iowa City.
Matt Gatens can shoot, as can Jake Kelly. Jeff Peterson has the ability to shoot,
and Anthony Tucker has the accolades right now.
Grant Gibbs of Linn-Mar can also fill it up from the perimeter, and
wants him to be a part of their future.
If they could land Gibbs, we are talking about several sharpshooters
taking aim from the outside.
The challenge will then be to find the right mix of big men to go along
with them, a position that Lickliter hasn't had to recruit at a high level
during his time at Butler.
But it's fun to be thinking about Iowa basketball during a time of year where,
over the past several years, that topic has been buried…sometimes