Story lines never seem in short supply when the men’s basketball teams from Iowa and Illinois face each other, as will be the case tonight at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
In addition to both teams fighting for their postseason lives, Iowa junior guard Devyn Marble has a chance to make history with help from his father, and Illinois coach John Groce has former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter as one of his biggest influences.
And one more thing, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday morning on the Big Ten teleconference that he might insert 6-foot-5 senior Eric May in the starting lineup.
“I’m not sure, I think it’s a possibility,” McCaffery said of starting May, who came off the bench to score 12 points and grab seven rebounds during Saturday’s 73-60 loss at top-ranked Indiana. “We’ll figure that out over the next day.”
The 6-6 Marble is 23 points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career as a Hawkeye. Devyn is the son of Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, Roy Marble, who finished his career in 1989 with 2,116 points.
It is believed that Devyn Marble and Roy Marble would become the first father and son duo in Big Ten history to each score at least 1,000 points during a career for the same school.
McCaffery said Monday that Devyn Marble has embraced playing in his father’s shadow at Iowa.
“I think Roy has been good in the sense that he encourages him; he’s here and he doesn’t crowd him and he doesn’t put pressure on him,” McCaffery said. “And I don’t think Devyn feels that at all.
“I think it’s a very good relationship that I appreciate.”
First-year Illinois coach Groce feels the same way about his relationship with Lickliter, who was fired as the Iowa coach in 2010 after just three seasons. Lickliter was Groce’s high school coach in Danville, Ind., and also a mentor in many other ways.
“Without question he’s had a major impact on my life, not just as a coach, a major impact on my family,” Groce said of Lickliter, who is now the head men’s basketball coach at Marian, an NAIA school in Indianapolis. “He’s given so much of himself as has his own family in so many different ways to mine.
“So the three, four or five guys that I owe a lot to in this profession, he’s certainly one of them. I think he’s a tremendous teacher and just a quality, quality person. I wouldn’t be where I’m at now without him.”
Groce also spoke highly of Devyn Marble, calling him a match-up nightmare. That proved to be the case in the second half against Indiana this past Saturday when Marble scored 18 of his 20 points.
Marble is expected to start at point guard for the injured Mike Gesell against Illinois. But Marble also will see action at shooting guard and at small forward depending on matchups and rotations.
“His versatility in itself it what makes him a match-up problem,” Groce said of Marble. “Obviously, when he plays the point you see him try to post up smaller point guards. I really appreciate his game as I watch him. He’s a basketball player.”
As for May, he likely would replace sophomore shooting guard Josh Oglesby in the starting lineup if McCaffery makes a change. The 6-4 Oglesby has been mired in a season-long shooting slump, but has helped in other ways according to McCaffery.
“Although Josh has not shot the ball as well as he can, he’s still been a very effective player for us,” McCaffery said. “So, we’ll see.”
Today’s game, which tips off at 6:06 p.m. on the Big Ten Network, will be the only time that Iowa and Illinois meet during the regular season. Illinois, with records of 21-9 overall and 8-8 in the Big Ten, appears headed to the NCAA Tournament barring a collapse at the end.
Iowa, with records of 18-11 and 7-9 in the Big Ten, is considered a long shot to make the NCAA Tournament, but probably a lock to the make the National Invitation Tournament for the second consecutive season.
Illinois has won nine of the last 11 games against Iowa, including the last three at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball