No one is going to mistake the Iowa Hawkeyes for a contender in the Big Ten this season.
The Hawkeyes were 18-17 a year ago and just 8-10 in the conference. They did play in the postseason, but it was the NIT, which happened to be their first tournament berth (NCAA or NIT) since 2006.
Still, there is hope that Iowa can continue the rise it started last year and at least get back to being competitive night in and night out.
The Hawkeyes showed signs of it last season, including with wins over four nationally ranked teams. But they were just 3-9 on the road and that record needs to improve if Iowa is going to take another step forward under head coach Fran McCaffery.
The other thing that needs to happen is Iowa needs to get a monster year from junior guard/forward Roy Devyn Marble.
Marble pumped in 11.5 points per outing last season and also dished out 126 assists as he put a lot of emphasis on getting teammates involved in the offense.
He is a threat to knock down shots from the outside as well. He drilled 22 treys last season and I expect that number to go up a bit this year.
Marble should also be improved defensively this season for an Iowa team that ranked 12th in the conference in points allowed (72.5). Marble finished with a team-best 53 steals and the better he plays on defense this year, the better off the Hawkeyes are going to be.
It is also going to be important for Marble to be a leader. Iowa is short on seniors, and with Marble being one of the go-to guys for the Hawkeyes from a statistical standpoint, it only makes sense that he provides leadership.
Marble is good enough to lead the Hawkeyes to a winning season. And while it remains to be seen if it will be good enough to get Iowa back to the NCAA tournament, you have to believe that the Hawkeyes will at least get another shot at the NIT.
And all things considered, it’s not a bad step for a program that appears to be headed in the right direction.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at email@example.com.