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Rick Brown: Level of Hawkeyes' success surprised this beat writer

[ 0 ] April 6, 2013 |

Back in early November, when the 2012-13 Iowa basketball season was about to tip off, I suggested that Hawkeye fans should curb their enthusiasm.

The program had a buzz again, coming off the first winning season since 2007, the first postseason appearance since 2006 and four wins against Top 25 teams. Iowa was tabbed the sleeper team in the Big Ten. Some fans were expecting the 2012-13 Hawkeyes to take the next step, from NIT to NCAA. And to my way of thinking, expectations were exceeding reality.

Well, I was right. And wrong.

Iowa did go to the NIT for a second straight season, but came much closer to that NCAA bid than I expected. I thought the loss of Matt Gatens, in particular, set the table for a small step back in 2012-13.

Privately, I tested my theory on Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and several of his assistants. They agreed with me, to a man. So let’s just say the 2012-13 season was a pleasant surprise to all of us.

I didn’t see a 25-win season coming. I didn’t see Devyn Marble breaking out of his mini-slump to play some of the best basketball by anyone in an Iowa uniform the last decade. I didn’t see McCaffery being able to balance a 10-man rotation, keep everyone happy and have success with a seemingly different lineup on the floor at crunch time each game.

Which brings us to 2013-14. Expectations will be high, and rightfully so. Depending on which Big Ten players leave early for the NBA, the Hawkeyes could receive some title consideration.

Perimeter shooting will have to improve, much like the defense took a step forward in 2012-13, for that to happen. More success on the road is also a must. McCaffery will once again have to balance a long rotation. And the returning players will have to improve in the offseason.

But Iowa should have its best home-court advantage in years. Six sellout crowds came in 2012-13, when the Hawkeyes finished 18-2 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Average attendance was at its highest since 2001-02. I see attendance spiking again next season.

And I will not be telling Hawkeye fans to curb their enthusiasm.

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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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