BLACKSBURG, Va. — Fran McCaffery has little history associated with the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, other than his time as Iowa’s head basketball coach.
But with two losses in the annual jamboree, McCaffery now has joined his predecessors in Iowa challenge futility. Steve Alford was 2-4. Todd Lickliter was 0-3. Iowa as a whole is 2-9, the most losses for any school in either conference.
Iowa even skipped two seasons of the challenge under Alford. The Hawkeyes have lost six straight, eight of nine overall and their only victory in that run was an unremarkable 45-42 conquest of North Carolina State in 2005.
Iowa has lost some of its challenge games in excruciating fashion. In 2010, the Hawkeyes led Wake Forest by 18 in the first half, but the Demon Deacons rallied and guard J.T. Terrell drilled a 25-foot 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to take a 76-73 lead. In 2008, Andrew Brommer missed the front end of two free throws with no time remaining in a 57-55 loss at Boston College.
“I don’t look at history there,” McCaffery said. “I look at it that it’s a challenge for our team. We’re a very young team. It’s a challenge for our young guys. I’m just try to get better and play well.”
Last year’s defeat was head-rattling in a 16-point home loss to Clemson. Iowa was thoroughly beaten at both ends of the court.
McCaffery, obviously, envisions a different performance against Virginia Tech this year. But for the third-year Iowa coach, it’s more about competing in a road environment than strictly for the challenge.
“Anytime you go on the road you want to see a team that’s focused on the game plan and defends and competes and does what we want to do, at least on offense, in terms of shot selection and pushing the ball and making good decisions and kind of plays our game and doesn’t get caught up in the environment,” McCaffery said.
Virginia Tech has dealt Iowa a pair of challenge losses, including a six-point defeat in 2009. With the Hokies’ 5-0 start, rookie Virginia Tech Coach James Johnson said excitement is brewing in Blacksburg for the match-up against 5-1 Iowa.
“They’re from a high-profile conference, they’re coming into our place, it is the challenge, a lot of the other teams in both leagues are playing,” Johnson said. “There’s going to be a lot of excitement going around. That’s a good thing.
“We’ve put ourselves in position … if we were 2-3 or 1-4, I’m not sure that the hype would be surrounded by that. We feel fortunate that we’re able to go against a good team in this challenge and it’s two good teams from two good leagues and we’re fortunate to be in this position right now.”
Here are the team records in the 131-game series:
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