IOWA CITY — Iowa basketball’s non-conference schedule once again lacks marquee appeal to a national audience. But that could change in the future.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said he’s willing to filter major opponents into his annual schedule once the program reaches a sustainable level of success. Iowa’s non-conference opponents this year were a combined 192-225 last year and only one — Clemson — qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes don’t leave the state until Dec. 31, a road Big Ten game at Wisconsin.
“I’ve always tried to schedule based on what I thought our team’s capabilities were that year,” said McCaffery, who enters his second year as coach. “For example, one year at Siena we thought we were going to be good. We had the No. 1-ranked non-conference schedule in the country. We took them all on.
“Once our program continues to improve, then you want to take them all on. You want to play, if you can get a home-and-home with Kansas or a Duke or a Carolina or a UCLA, Kentucky, anybody like that, get TV games, you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to see what your team is capable of doing and test them during the year and get your program exposure on national television.”
Iowa’s non-conference slate features a handful of constants each year. Since 1988, the Hawkeyes have played the other three instate programs. The Hawkeyes are locked into the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge and compete in an exempt tournament each year.
But Iowa recently has hesitated to schedule major non-conference opponents for single games. Iowa’s last major opponent outside of league, tournament, in-state or challenge play was at Arizona State in 2006, the last season Iowa posted a winning record. That likely will change under McCaffery.
“Do you always look for, ‘How can we get the most wins?’” McCaffery asked. ”Well, a lot of teams have done that over the years, and it’s hurt them at the end of the year. Their RPI is what it should be. You’ve got to have your eye on RPI.”
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