The Iowa Hawkeyes‘ 2013-14 campaign essentially produced two entirely different seasons. Fran McCaffery‘s talented bunch started off the year hot and found themselves with a terrific record of 15-3 while also boasting a top 10 national ranking. From then on it all went south and in a hurry.
The Hawkeyes limped to the finish line as they lost nine of their last 14 regular season games. That left them with a record of 20-12 overall and 9-9 in Big Ten Conference play. A team that all season long was seen as a lock to qualify for the NCAA Tournament put themselves in an uncomfortable position where they were squarely on the field of 68’s bubble on Selection Sunday.
Squarely on the bubble they were, indeed. Iowa qualified for the Big Dance, albeit, barely. The Hawkeyes were selected as one of the last four at-large teams in which meant they’d have to play their first tournament game at the First Four in Dayton. And by now you know that they did not come up victorious in that game.
A year that started off so exciting and with so much promise came dwindling down and ended faster than one can blink. The Hawkeyes seemed to forget how to play defense and even McCaffery questioned his own team’s toughness. Iowa could certainly score, but the intangibles it takes to win consistently were missing from this team far too often. And ultimately, that is what did them in.
If Hawkeye fans can forget the finish — which I absolutely know is easier said than done — this season offered a lot of good and should definitely serve as a step in the right direction for everyone involved with the program. The team’s NCAA Tourney appearance was the school’s first since 2006. Furthermore, McCaffery is continuing to rebuild and reshape Iowa basketball to the solid and consistent program that it has been and should always be.
The 20-win Hawks do lose their best player and star Roy Devyn Marble. They also lose seniors Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe. Even with these three departures, though, they’ll still return plenty of talent and could unquestionably be better in 2014-15.
Back will be Aaron White, Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff and Gabriel Olaseni. Also retuning will be sharpshooter Josh Oglesby and improving youngsters such as big man Adam Woodbury and talented wing Peter Jok.
I’m fairly certain Iowa will be an NCAA Tournament team next season. However, I’m waiting to see if this talented group can finally take off and become a consistent winner. The level of player talent is there and so is the coaching. If this team can develop more of an attitude and toughness to close out games, look out.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27