The Iowa basketball program gets the Fran McCaffery era underway Sunday at Carver Hawkeye Arena as the Hawks take on South Dakota State in the season and home opener beginning at 2 p.m.
There is plenty of buzz on the program these days and scoring 111 points in the exhibition game sure didn’t temper the mood of fans who are dying to see improvement from the Iowa hoopsters.
Here are five things to watch for Sunday as the Hawks begin their new season on the hardwood.
1. Eric May and Jarryd Cole
McCaffery has said his up-tempo system is tailor-made for these two returning starters. May could be the team’s leading scorer this year because of that. He is athletic, fast and will thrive in the speed change. Cole has been hampered by injuries in the preseason, but Fran said he should be good to go Sunday. He is undersized for a power forward, so that is a good reason to think the up-tempo style would suit him. Now, Cole will be able to use his speed to compensate for lack of height inside.
2. The Baby Hawks
McCaffery has not been shy about playing his true freshmen. Melsahn Basabe had 19 points in the exhibition game and should excite fans with his freakish ability. Expect Basabe and maybe even Devyn Marble to start the game for Iowa as Matt Gatens is not expected to be in uniform as he recovers from surgery. Marble can shoot it but is a great penetrator as well. Both players should see extensive minutes as will freshman Zach McCabe, who may started the exhibition game but may come off the bench Sunday. McCabe does a lot of things really well and is Iowa’s most versatile player.
3. The Point Guard Play
The noticable difference in the play from the exhibition win for Iowa was that the two point guards — starter Cully Payne and JUCO transfer Bryce Cartwright — was the lack of turnovers. They turned it over just twice as a unit and Payne finished with 10 assists. Cartwright is a better scorer but both should focus on turnovers in the early going. It is hard to get into an offense that turns it over a lot. Fran also said Cartwright could start the game with Payne this time around. This combination will be intriguing all season long.
4. The Home Crowd
If you don’t watch the game online, check out the attendance in the box score. The fans have not come out the last twol years and have suffered from apathy. The new coaching staff and up-tempo style should change that but I am not sure if that will come right away or with time. Hopefully the fans come out to kick off the McCaffery era right.
5. South Dakota State’s Iowa connection
South Dakota State has two Iowa natives and another player who graduated from an Iowa school on its roster. Leading the way this year will be Clint Sargent, who averaged a team-high 12.8 points per game last season. Sargent graduated from Sioux City Bishop Heelan Catholic High School. The other two Iowans are two 6-foot-9 players in Jordan Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra of Rock Island. The twin towers helped guide the Rockets to back-to-back championships in Class 1A the past two years. Dykstra originally committed to Iowa State before joining his high school teammate at South Dakota State.