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Rick Brown: Strong European trip bolsters Iowa men's optimism

[ 0 ] August 21, 2013 |

Iowa’s basketball team leaves Europe and heads back to Iowa City on Thursday. Classes start Monday. Expectations are already in mid-season form.

ESPN’s “Super Tuesday” schedule was released while the Hawkeyes were away. Iowa was assigned three prime-time games, against Michigan State and Ohio State at home and Indiana on the road.

Clearly, people other than Hawkeye fans expect them to be good.

Nothing puts the present into perspective like the past. Next season will be the first time Iowa has played a regular-season Big Ten game on ESPN since 2008 and the first time the Hawkeyes have made multiple ESPN regular-season league appearances since 2006-07.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who inherited a 10-win team in March 2010, has pushed a lot of the right buttons heading into his fourth season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have received plenty of national publicity and are a trendy pick to make noise in the Big Ten.

McCaffery has embraced the high expectations. The tour of England and France gave McCaffery 10 practices and six games to experiment with different combinations and try to figure out a crowded depth chart.

Two days before departure, McCaffery said he’d be able to make an 11-man rotation work because he was going to stress defense and running in transition, and “no one complains about coming out when they’re exhausted.”

After six games on foreign soil, the 11-man rotation is alive and well. Ten players averaged between 15.8 and 26.7 minutes a game in the five box scores that were available. A box score was not available for the second game in London.

Guard Mike Gesell, who didn’t play after breaking a bone in his hand, will make it an 11-man rotation. Nine players started at least two games. Six players averaged between 9.4 and 13 points per game. Five players averaged between 4.7 and 8.5 rebounds. McCaffery will be able to mix and match those players all season.

“This trip was beneficial in so many ways,” McCaffery said after the final game Tuesday.

Here are a few things that stood out from the Hawkeyes’ European play-cation:

Jok’s the real deal: Incoming freshman Peter Jok (West Des Moines Valley) averaged 12.4 points and displayed an outside touch that will be valuable. He’ll get significant minutes at the off-guard spot.

“He’s got a chance to be special,” McCaffery said.

Duel at center: Adam Woodbury started every game in the post as a freshman, but rapidly improving Gabe Olaseni is breathing down his neck. Olaseni (9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds), who also blocked 13 shots, averaged 21.8 minutes. Woodbury (6.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) averaged 15.8 minutes.

Oglesby’s shooting touch: After Oglesby shot just 26.9 percent from 3-point range last season, and 23.5 percent in Big Ten play, McCaffery predicted a 40-percent junior season for Oglesby. He shot 42.8 percent from deep range in Europe.

“He’s playing at a whole another level, which we knew he would,” McCaffery said.

Marble at the point. Guard Devyn Marble plays his best basketball at the point, and it looks like that’s where he’ll spend a majority of his senior season.

“I thought Marble had a great trip,” McCaffery said. “All in all, I’m really pleased with him. Especially at the point.”

Uthoff’s upside: After redshirting two straight seasons, it will take Jarrod Uthoff (7.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) some time to find his stride. He is satisfied letting the game come to him. He will become more aggressive as the season goes on.

Senior leadership: Both Melsahn Basabe (12.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Zach McCabe (8.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg) recorded double-doubles on the trip. They will be glue guys as seniors, and solid play from them will help get this team back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and covers Hawkeye football and basketball for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.


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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