IOWA CITY — An offseason of intrigue and interest finally has become a date on the calendar for the Iowa men’s basketball team.
The new-era Hawkeyes, who blend seven holdovers with five highly touted freshmen, open their season Sunday in an exhibition against Division II Quincy (Ill.) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. While the result doesn’t count and the performance will be forgettable in about two weeks, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery believes it’s an important gauge in building for the regular season.
In other words, he doesn’t just want to play. He wants to win.
“Anytime we’re in that situation, we’re going to try to win the game, so we’ll go at it like we’re trying to win the game,” McCaffery said. “I might be slightly more flexible as the game goes on to play different combinations, but not to the point where we would risk losing the game.
“You put the uniforms on, put people in the building, we’re keeping score. The focus has to be on, ‘What do we have to do to win?’ It will be the same for them. They’ll come in here, try to play well.”
Iowa finished 18-17 last year, its first winning season since 2007 and earned its first postseason win since 2003. Despite losing Matt Gatens, the sixth-leading scorer in school history, the Hawkeyes return about 70 percent of their scoring from last year. Iowa brings back junior Devyn Marble, sophomore forward Aaron White, junior forward Melsahn Basabe, junior forward Zach McCabe and sophomore guard Josh Oglesby, who ranked from second to sixth in points, respectively. Senior Eric May returns healthy after limping through the last two months with a back injury.
Iowa also added five freshmen, two of which are likely to start. Center Adam Woodbury and point guard Mike Gesell expect to join Marble, May and White in the starting lineup. Freshman guards Pat Ingram and Anthony Clemmons and forward Kyle Meyer along with sophomore center Gabe Olaseni also should see action today.
The exhibition is a chance for McCaffery to experiment with different lineups. It’s also an opportunity for the players to get on the court in front of the fans.
“It’s finally time to start getting in the games,” said May. “It’s been a long preseason. To play somebody other than ourselves, is what we’re looking forward to.”