Iowa will definitely need to learn from that lesson as they have a tough non-conference schedule ahead of them, before they dive head first into Big Ten play after the first of the year. Iowa will host Liberty, a member of the Big South Conference on Sunday December 22nd at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The Flames have one of the most talented by yet unknown freshman in 6-2 guard Jeremy Monceaux. Monceaux was a fixture on the AAU scene the past two summers, and has the capability to light it up offensively as he averaged just over 35 points as a senior at Parkway High School in Birmingham, AL last season.
After hosting the Flames in a pre-Christmas tussle, the Hawkeyes will travel to Tulsa, OK to take on the #22 ranked Golden Hurricanes of Tulsa in what should be a real dandy of a basketball game. Tulsa, which is one of the most successful programs over the past three seasons record wise is currently 5-1 this season, and appears headed for another 25 plus win season in 2002-03. The Hawkeyes hope to have a little stocking stuffer left over for Tulsa on December 28th.
The Hawkeyes will tip off the new year with their last non conference game, which will be a home match up with the always tough Missouri Tigers. Iowa split last season with the Tigers in two games. This will definitely be a tough match up for the Hawkeyes, and a good test heading into the rough and tumble Big Ten schedule.
In order for Iowa to achieve success in their remaining three non conference games, as well as their Big Ten stretch, the Hawkeyes will need to just play smart basketball. Turnovers will obviously be a major concern, as well as bench depth and foul trouble. However, through the Iowa's first eight games, foul trouble has not been that big of an issue, as the post players have been able to stay out of foul difficulty.
Senior guard Chauncey Leslie's scoring has dipped a bit during the last two games, and that will have to get back to the pace he had during the first six games where he was averaging almost 20 points per game.
Junior center Jared Reiner was a warrior on the boards during the first six games, but has tailed off the last two games. He needs to continue to get to the boards and rebound for the Hawkeyes to be effective.
Freshman point guard Jeff Horner has been doing a good job of controlling the offense and is obviously a natural leader on the court. He needs to continue to guide the Hawkeyes. Horner has been struggling with his shot as of late, but that will come around, and the only way for a shooter to get out of a shooting slump is to continue shooting the basketball, and eventually the shots will begin to fall.
Freshman forward Greg Brunner is still coming around this season. He has showed the Hawkeye fans some of the things that he brings to the table, as he's been diving on the floor for loose balls, gathering rebounds, and stepping out beyond the three point line and knocking down jumpers.
Junior forward Glen Worley has played like the player that the coaching staff knew he could become the past two games, as he has led the Hawkeyes in scoring in both contests averaging 18 points, and more importantly he has cut his turnovers down, only committing a total of three in those games.
Bench production has been getting better, as juniors Brody Boyd and Sean Sonderleiter have been giving the Hawkeyes some quality minutes as the season progresses. Boyd battled the flu during the Iowa State contest last Friday night, but yet still managed to give the Hawkeyes a shot at the tie with his three point attempt at the end of the game.
With Iowa's three non-conference games remaining, they will definitely be put to the test, which will help prepare them for conference play. Iowa will enter Big Ten play on January 8th as they travel to Evanston, IL to face Northwestern. From their the Hawkeyes will take on the cream of the crop in the conference as they host Michigan State and Illinois before traveling to Wisconsin to take on the defending co-champions. Iowa will return home on January 25th to host Ohio State to round out the first month of conference play.
By the end of January, Hawkeye fans will definitely have a true sense of what this year's Iowa team is made of.