The Iowa basketball team concluded its one and only preseason exhibition matchup this past Sunday evening against Augustana (Illinois) College in what could be described as a learning experience for both Hawkeye players and fans.
The final score reads as an 87-65 blowout, but in listening to coach Fran McCaffery’s postgame comments Iowa fans would be hard pressed to believe that a victory was obtained. And that’s a good thing.
“We got outplayed, and we won the game,” said McCaffery postgame. Now any fan that has followed the Iowa program for the past decade should appreciate just how unusual and promising those words are. I can rarely remember games in seasons’ past in which the Hawkeyes were “outplayed” and still came away with a win.
If you were to look back over the past few years you would find Hawkeye losses to the likes of Louisiana-Monroe, Texas-San Antonio, Duquesne, South Dakota State, and Campbell. Those were the types of games in which Iowa was “outplayed” and in many cases lost decisively. While it may seem insignificant, it truly is a testament to the progress of the program under coach McCaffery that the Hawkeyes are finally able to win games when they underperform no matter what level of competition it’s against.
Moving on to the game itself, there are multiple positives and negatives to examine further as we inch ever so close to the start of the regular season.
Let’s start with the good.
1. Home court advantage.
Hawkeye fans once again showcased their excitement for this year’s team and the rise of their beloved program as a whole. For a simple exhibition game, attendance on Sunday would have been considered a packed house for any regular season game just a few years ago. If the liveliness of the crowd was any indication of things to come, Carver Hawkeye Arena will not be a very friendly environment for opponents to step into this season.
2. Lineups on lineups on lineups.
It appears at this juncture at least that McCaffery was not kidding when he said the Hawkeyes likely have 11 players who will see extended playing time this season. With the exception of sophomore Anthony Clemmons who sat out with a minor ankle injury, ten players saw prominent action together in what could be described as a smorgasbord of lineup combinations. The Hawkeyes played big, small, and seemingly everything in between over the 40 minutes of action.
3. Gabriel Olaseni
The junior big man was by far the most impressive and improved looking Hawkeye on the floor. He showed a much higher level of confidence on the offensive end, executing a sweet pivot and jump hook in traffic and knocking down two face-up jumpers with no hesitation. These improvements along with his consistent ability to run the floor and play above the rim on both ends make him an extremely intriguing player to watch.
Now let’s take a look at the bad.
1. Adam Woodbury.
While the stat line shows Woodbury finished with a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds), the reality is that the sophomore 7-footer doesn’t seem to have progressed as much as fans might have hoped. Aside from one nice looking jumper he was once again inconsistent finishing at and around the basket. The big man also still has issues maintaining a solid base when fighting for position in the post, often getting knocked off balance. If he doesn’t show more consistency once the regular season starts, look for the so far more impressive Olaseni to absorb some of his minutes.
2. Hawkeye newcomers
Freshman Peter Jok and redshirt-sophomore transfer Jarrod Uthoff were noticeably tentative in their first action against players other than their own teammates. However, that shouldn’t be too unexpected considering the circumstances, and in the latter stages of the game both started to settle in and found ways to contribute while on the floor.
Finally we’ll take a look at the ugly.
I think by now everyone understands the “freedom of movement” concept that officials have been instructed to enforce this season. Unfortunately in this game and in other exhibitions that have taken place across the country we are starting to see the side effects of the rule change. An unbearable amount of fouls are being called, and although some appear to be good interpretations of the rule, numerous other instances exist where the officials are obviously overemphasizing the calls.
The pace of the game could be best described as, well non-existent. Iowa attempted a ridiculous 50 free throws on the night, completely eliminating any flow or up-and-down action from the game. If the officiating seen on Sunday really is a reflection of things to come this year we should all brace ourselves for a season filled with glorified free throw shooting contests.
My last observation after watching this contest is that officials continue apparently to enjoy making themselves the center of attention, even in a meaningless exhibition game. The game is about the players first and foremost, then the coaches, then the fans, and then…well never the officials. One play in particular showcased an official’s desire for the spotlight when he made a spectacle of whistling Gabriel Olaseni for a ridiculous technical foul for hanging on the rim after a transition dunk.
Then again, at this point we probably shouldn’t expect any official anywhere to exercise proper judgment and restraint no matter how insignificant the game or play may be.
The bottom line is that Hawkeye fans should be encouraged that even in a winning effort the team (and officials) have things to work on before the regular season tips off later this week. And we’ll all be watching to see whether or not they do.