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Why the Hawkeye men still have plenty to play for

[ 0 ] February 25, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Fran McCaffery played point guard on a pair of Penn teams that made the NCAA Tournament in the early 1980s.

He’s coached three different schools – Lehigh, North Carolina-Greensboro and Siena – into the NCAAs. Odds are long that Iowa will join that list this season, and earn McCaffery a $200,000 raise.

A crushing 64-60 loss at Nebraska Saturday took care of any last-season NCAA drama, barring four wins to end the regular season and a run in the Big Ten Tournament. One of those remaining games is at No. 1 Indiana Saturday.

Odds are long that Iowa will make the NCAA Tournament and earn McCaffery a $200,000 raise. (Benjamin Roberts / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Odds are long that Iowa will make the NCAA Tournament and earn McCaffery a $200,000 raise. (Benjamin Roberts / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

So instead of bubble talk, the Hawkeyes will be looking for another source of motivation starting with Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. game with Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“The question I think, the challenge before this team, is where do we go from here?” McCaffery said Monday. “That’s to be determined.”

The fact that Iowa, missing from the NCAA Tournament since 2006, has been in the discussion is a sign of progress in McCaffery’s third season. It’s also a fact that Carver-Hawkeye Arena has dates available for Iowa to host games in the first three rounds of the NIT.

Iowa still has plenty to play for. Currently 17-10 overall and 6-8 in Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes have a chance to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Iowa hasn’t been at least .500 in the Big Ten since 2006-07.

Realistic NCAA talk? It was fun while it lasted.

“When you’re one of the teams that has an opportunity and you’re in the conversation, it’s great,” McCaffery said. “You want to be one of the ones that gets in, not one of the ones that gets left out, and you want to do the things necessary to make that happen. We’re a team that clearly has been very close in that respect. So when you fall short, you lose a game you had a chance to win, it makes you feel that much worse.”

This team’s string of close losses has put as what-if frame on the season.

“Every team does that,” junior guard Devyn Marble said. “You look back on your record and think what could possibly be. But at the end of the day, your record is what it is. And you’ve got to find a way to improve it.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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