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Iowa eyes trip to NCAA tourney

[ 0 ] October 11, 2012 |

The goal of every Division I men’s basketball team is to make the NCAA Tournament, but in many cases, it’s an unrealistic goal.

That’s been the case for Hawkeyes a lot recently, but not this coming season. None of the players hesitated Thursday to say that anything short of making the NCAA Tournament would be a disappointment.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery echoed those sentiments.

He led the Hawkeyes to the second-round of the National Invitation Tournament last season and to an 18-17 overall record. It was Iowa’s first winning season since the 2006-07 campaign.

Iowa also returns seven of its top nine scorers from last season, although, replacing all-Big Ten guard Matt Gatens will be a daunting task.

“Last year, we expected to improve, which we did,” McCaffery said. “We accomplished a lot of things, which we hadn’t the previous years. And then now, we obviously, want to get better.

“So you’re looking at 18 wins and an NIT bid, then the next logical step is the NCAA Tournament. But I think as everyone knows this league in particular is difficult. It’s doable because I think without question we have the best conference in the country.”

MAKING EACH OTHER BETTER: Iowa freshman center Adam Woodbury said his game will benefit from playing against sophomore Gabe Olaseni in practice every day.

“I mean look at how long and athletic he is,” Woodbury said of the 6-foot-10 Olaseni. “That can only make somebody better. And hopefully, I’m trying to make him better, too. We play as hard as we can at all times. And we’re definitely going at each for these minutes.”

The 7-1 Woodbury, who is from Sioux City, was considered one of the top high school centers in the country last season. He picked Iowa over a host of Division I schools, including North Carolina, which was his second choice.

Olaseni, on the other hand, grew up in England and attended a prep school in Kansas before coming to Iowa before the start of last season. He didn’t have the same accolades as Woodbury did coming out of high school. Olaseni also played sparingly as a freshman last season.

However, McCaffery said Olaseni has improved significantly since the end of last season.

“Gabe has made unbelievable progress,” McCaffery said. “I think anybody that knows him would have expected this. They know his makeup, his work ethic, his character, his athletic ability.”

McCaffery said Olaseni tries to be too perfect at times instead of just playing the game.

“We’re constantly encouraging him to let him know it’s OK to make a mistake,” McCaffery said. “He knows what we want from him now.”

DUNK IT: Iowa’s two freshmen point guards say they’ll react the same way upon getting their first breakaway to the basket in college.

“I’m definitely dunking it no matter what,” Mike Gesell said. “The adrenaline will be pumping in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and I think my vertical will be twice as high at that moment.”

Fellow freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons was just as certain.

“It’s got to be a dunk,” Clemmons said. “It has to be a dunk.”

Clemmons was asked Thursday who is the better dunker between him and Gesell. They are listed at 6-1, so neither has a height advantage.

“Mike has some leaping ability, I like his springs,” Clemmons said. “I’m not going to go against myself. So I’ll say I can dunk better.”

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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