NEW YORK, N.Y. – Iowa will end the season by playing a school-record 38th basketball game Thursday. And this one carries some extra weight.
“You have a chance to hang a banner,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Wednesday. “ A chance to wear a ring for the rest of your life. I think everyone recognizes it’s a little different.”
The Hawkeyes face Baylor for the NIT Championship at 8 p.m. Thursday in Madison Square Garden. Now 25-12 and a winner in seven of its last eight games, Iowa can also sent lone senior Eric May out on a winning note.
“To see him be able to cut the nets down would be a great feeling for me,” McCaffery said.
May played on Iowa teams that won a total of 21 games in his first two seasons. The Hawkeyes have won 43 in his last two.
“It seems like a long road, but it’s also come pretty quickly,” May said. “I’m really excited to be ending my career at Madison Square Garden with a chance to win a championship.”
Baylor, 22-14, also has a senior who wants to go out with a victory. Point guard Pierre Jackson is averaging 19.9 points and seven assists a game.
“Those numbers are just staggering,” McCaffery said. “He puts a lot of pressure on anybody who is trying to guard that team.”
Jackson had 24 points and 10 assists in the Bears’ 76-70 semifinal victory over BYU Tuesday. He set an NIT record with 16 assists against Arizona State in the second round. He had 13 assists and no turnovers in a quarterfinal victory against Providence.
“He’s been phenomenal,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team lost to Penn State in the title game of the 2009 NIT. “At the end of the season, point guard play is so important.”
Iowa junior point guard Devyn Marble has also been hot, scoring 21 points or more in all four NIT games and averaging 24.3. He also matched a career high with nine rebounds in Tuesday’s 71-60 semifinal victory against Maryland. Marble wants today to be the last NIT game of his career.
“I would hope so,” said Marble, who has visions of ending his career in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Marble knows that Jackson will be more than a handful today.
“It’s going to be a team effort,” Marble said.
The Bears also have a pair of top-notch front liners in 7-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin, averaging 13 points and 8.3 rebounds, and 6-9 junior forward Cory Jefferson, averaging 13 points and 8.0 rebounds.
“I think our experience against physical teams will help us,” Iowa forward Aaron White said. “We’ll try and impose our physicality on them.”
Iowa had a 27-2 edge in points after turnovers Tuesday, and has used that transition game to its advantage all year.
“First and foremost we’ve got to take care of the ball,” Drew said. “Because good teams are going to punish you by getting easy buckets at the other end.”
Iowa wasted no time getting ready for Baylor. The Hawkeyes had a team meeting and film session when they returned to their Times Square hotel after the Maryland victory, and headed to bed at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. McCaffery and his staff watched film past 3 a.m., and were back at it less than 6 hours later.
All for one game. The last game of the season.
“It would mean a lot to win a championship,” Marble said. “It would give us something to look back on, and look forward to. It would give us something to build on next year.”
College basketball analyst Bill Raftery will be on the ESPN crew carrying today’s Iowa-Baylor NIT championship game.
Raftery has a handful of popular trademark phrases, from “Onions,” to describe a clutch jumper late in a close game, to “a little kiss” on a bankshot, “send it in” on a dunk and “lingerie on the deck” to describe a player who got faked out.
Raftery was the subject of conversation in the Iowa locker room after Tuesday’s 71-60 victory against Maryland. He also worked that game on ESPN2.
Eric May hit a big 3-pointer from the top of the key with a minute remaining that ended any Maryland hope of a comeback. Onions?
“If he gave me that call, I want a soundbite of that,” May said.
Raftery had, indeed, called “Onions” on the shot.
“I was hoping I’d bank in a shot so bad,” Aaron White said. “A little kiss…”
Raftery, former Indiana coach Bob Knight and play-by-play man Bob Wischusen will call Thursday’s game.
ALL ABOUT THE SHOES: Devyn Marble has always been a shoe connoisseur.
“When I was younger I was limited to so many,” Marble said. “My mom didn’t want to spend her money on them. Now I have my own money, and I can do what I please. Just something I like.”
Marble estimates he’s worn 10 different styles of Nike shoes this season. Shoes marketed in the names of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. He added Chris Paul to his list against Maryland.
“I don’t have a problem with wearing new shoes,” Marble said. “I don’t have to break them in.”
After he was interviewed on ESPN2 after the Maryland game, Marble shook hands and had a quick conversation with analyst Dan Dakich.
“He loves my shoes, every time we play,” Marble said. “So I brought those new ones just for him.”
What will he wear in today’s title game?
“I might go to the store to get something just for you,” Marble said. “Keep the fans interested. “
Maybe a Marble-brand shoe in the future?
“I hope so,” Marble said.
The Mayor’s advice: Iowa State swept Baylor this season, winning in Ames, 79-71, and in Waco, 87-82. Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg offers this advice on how to beat the Bears.
“Slowing down Pierre Jackson in transition, staying attached to Brady Heslip and keeping their bigs off the glass,” Hoiberg said.
Jackson is Baylor’s point guard. Heslip is a perimeter threat, shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point distance.
REGARDS TO BROADWAY: Iowa’s team was scheduled to take in a Broadway show Wednesday evening. “Motown: The Musical,” was the planned destination.
WHO: Iowa (25-12) versus Baylor (22-14).
WHERE: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.
TIPOFF: 8 p.m.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Iowa – Devyn Marble 15.2 ppg, Aaron White 6.2 rpg, Marble 3.0 apg; for Baylor – Pierre Jackson 19.9 ppg, Isaiah Austin 8.3 rpg, Jackson 7.0 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: This is Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s second career NIT title game appearance. He was an assistant coach at Notre Dame when the Irish lost in the 1992 final to Virginia in overtime.
ABOUT THE BEARS: Jackson, the Big 12’s leading scorer, has made at least one 3-pointer in 46 consecutive games. He’s scored 695 points this year, and needs nine more to set the school’s single-season record.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Iowa’s 7-1 freshman center Adam Woodbury played a career-high 29 minutes against Maryland 7-1 sophomore center Alex Len, who had 16 points and nine rebounds. Now Woodbury faces another 7-1 post in freshman Isaiah Austin (13.0 points, 8.2 rebounds). Austin was ranked 4th and Woodbury (5.0 points, 4.7 rebounds) 50th on the final Rivals Top 150 for the Class of 2012.
NIT TITLE GAMES SINCE 1990
2012 – Stanford 75, Minnesota 51
2011 – Wichita State 66, Alabama 57
2010 – Dayton 79, North Carolina 68
2009 – Penn State 69, Baylor 63
2008 – Ohio State 92, Massachusetts 85
2007 – West Virginia 78, Clemson 73
2006 – South Carolina 76, Michigan 64
2005 – South Carolina 60, St. Joseph’s 57
2004 – Michigan 62, Rutgers 55
2003 – St. John’s 70, Georgetown 67
2002 – Memphis 72, South Carolina 62
2001 – Tulsa 79, Alabama 60
2000 – Wake Forest 71, Notre Dame 61
1999 – California 61, Clemson 60
1998 – Minnesota 79, Penn State 72
1997 – Michigan 82, Florida State 73
1996 – Nebraska 60, St. Joseph’s 56
1995 – Virginia Tech 65, Marquette 64
1994 – Villanova 80, Vanderbilt 73
1993 – Minnesota 62, Georgetown 61
1992 – Virginia 81, Notre Dame 76
1991 – Stanford 78, Oklahoma 72
1990 – Vanderbilt 74, Saint Louis 72
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball