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McCaffery: Non-conference portion of season key to NCAA hopes

[ 0 ] August 27, 2012 |
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Iowa coach Fran McCaffery

Iowa City, Ia. – Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery knows a good record in the non-conference portion of the 2012-13 season is vital to getting the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2006.

“Our non-conference (record) last year might have been the reason we didn’t get in, because our RPI was low,” McCaffery said during Monday’s Iowa Basketball Golf Outing, played in the memory of Chris Street. “We lost five (non-conference) games, and didn’t play well in any of them. We’ll want to try, especially with a young point guard and a young team still, to get off to a good start. You want to get some rhythm.”

Iowa finished 18-17 last season, the school’s first winning record since 2006-07. The Hawkeyes were 8-10 in Big Ten play, including four wins over Top 25 teams, and were a Josh Oglesby 3-pointer away from a .500 league record in the final seconds against Northwestern.

But the Hawkeyes were buried behind the RPI eight- ball after double-digit non-league losses to Creighton, Campbell , Clemson, Northern Iowa and Iowa State. And they were less than stellar in wins against Indiana-Purdue (Fort Wayne) and Brown.

“When you think back to last year, you always think about the five losses, but I remember some of the wins,” McCaffery said. “We didn’t play well in some of those. You want to be playing well and beating people in November and December. And then get consistent. For u

s, it’s a function of our defense. We didn’t play any defense last year.”

Iowa was last in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 72.5 points a game last season. In conference games only, they were again last at 71.6 points per game.

“It doesn’t matter who you are playing, you’re going to have trouble winning,” McCaffery said. “You’ve got to stop people. I think that is a lesson for all of us.”

Iowa’s non-conference portion of the schedule won’t be an RPI-enhancing blockbuster, once you get past Iowa State, Northern Iowa and maybe Wichita State and Virginia Tech. Texas-Pan American, Central Michigan, Howard, Garner-Webb, Western Kentucky, Texas A. and M.-Corpus Christi, South Dakota, South Carolina State and Coppin State are can’t-lose games.

“You look at it today and you don’t know,” McCaffery said. “Obviously, Iowa State will be good and Northern Iowa will be good. But DePaul, Wichita State, Western Kentucky, how are they going to be? The league itself is going to drive our RPI up. So you want to win inside the league and then beat some of the better teams, which is obviously very difficult.”

McCaffery mentioned a young point guard earlier. Freshman Mike Gesell is expected to be the starter at point, with another rookie, Anthony Clemmons, backing him up.

“Mike and Anthony are both phenomenal workers,” McCaffery said.

McCaffery said there are usually three or four players on a team who put the extra work in. He said more than that are taking advantage of Iowa’s year-old practice facility.

“This team, it’s been 12,” McCaffery said. “That’s very encouraging to me.”

Of Gesell, McCaffery said, “Mike, he is sort of relentless. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

INGRAM GOOD TO GO. Freshman guard Patrick Ingram stayed home in Indianapolis, Ind., to get his academic work in order this summer. McCaffery said Ingram, and everyone else on his team, is in good academic standing to start the year.

“He had a large mountain to climb, and I’m very proud of what he did,” McCaffery said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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