IOWA CITY, Iowa - A day after Iowa football plays its biggest game of the season at Ohio State, men's basketball will tip off its campaign at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The University of Texas-San Antonio comes calling on Sunday.
The Roadrunners almost upset Iowa on Nov. 17, 2008. They applied an effective press that pushed the Hawkeyes before the home team escaped with a 73-67 victory.
"Everything that I've heard and read is that they're excited to come in," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. "They feel like it was a close game last year that they let get away. It's a team that has good perimeter quickness and skill and is physical inside. It will be a really good test for us."
UTSA starts four seniors and a junior from a team that won 19 games a year ago. Guards Omar Johnson, Devin Gibson and Morris Smith IV are the team's leading returning scorers.
"They spread it out and they drive it and they kick it," Iowa Guard Matt Gatens said. "I think they shot it pretty well here and that's how they stayed in the game. If we can stay in front of our guys and play good defense and limit their open shots I think we'll be successful against them."
The Roadrunners shot 9 of 24 from beyond the arc in last season's contest with Iowa. They forced the Hawkeyes into 19 turnovers with their press.
Sunday's game will be the first of Iowa's five contests in 10 days. The Hawkeyes play host to Duquesne on Tuesday.
"The coaches do a great job of physically not working us too hard in practice but still staying on top of everything," Gatens said. "You just have to take care of everything, even school work, just get everything out of the way so you have a little time to yourself to prepare, watch more film."
Lickliter and Gatens were part of Iowa's media gathering here on Thursday. Here are some more notes from the meeting:
-Devon Archie still isn't practicing with the team following a shoulder injury sustained on Oct. 17.
"Devon Archie is getting better," Lickliter said. "He's still not participating, but he's getting better. The rest of us are healthy and looking forward to opening the season."
Lickliter didn't have a timetable for Archie's return but seemed warm to the idea of maybe redshirting the junior college transfer this season. Archie has three years left to play two seasons.
"We're going to wait and see when they (doctors) actually release him (to play)," Lickliter said. "And then we'll let him start to practice and we'll talk about it. As long as we don't play him, he's eligible for a redshirt. And he and I, we'll obviously discuss it. We'll see what happens with our team and all.
"He's such a good guy, he just wants to do what's right for the team."
Lickliter views Archie as a late bloomer. An extra year for the forward to develop might benefit him in the following two seasons.
"I saw him play really good basketball in junior college," Lickliter said. "But I've always thought that every year he's gotten better. If you've got five years to play four and you're improving every year, it somewhat makes sense to use one of those as a redshirt year and maximize your time and talents."
-Only four teams on the Iowa schedule this season had a losing record a year ago.
"My hope is that the competition will heighten our awareness, will drive us to concentrate and help us focus and to grow," Lickliter said. "That's the thing. If you can do everything you can to meet these challenges, you have to become better. You have to be a better team.
"It's going to be demanding up until conference (play). Well, the conference now is rated No. 1 in the nation now, or whatever. We've got five or six teams in the Top 25. So, that's going to happen so we better prepare for it."
-Lickliter stresses defense perhaps more than any other aspect of the game. The Hawkeyes come into this year having held opponents to 59.6 point per game last season, which ranked as the 14th best number in the nation.
"I like that the veterans really understand what we want to do," Lickliter said. "It doesn't mean it always happens, but I think they really have a good understanding not only of what we want to do but why we're doing it. Well then, they can guide these new guys along the way.
"I'm sure there are times when players just do it because you ask them to. But it's a lot better when they understand why they're doing it. We try to emphasize the advantages of our technique and our rules, but having those older guys help explain and show it is an advantage.
"So, we'll have our deficiencies, but I think we can overcome them as a team, support one another. The biggest thing is learning how to help appropriately. Most guys either under or over help."
-Lickliter expressed a desire to have more practices and fewer games at the beginning of the season as his team opens with five games in 10 days. The three Hawkeye players we spoke with – Gatens, Anthony Tucker and Eric May – all said they'd rather play games. Some things never change.