One of Fran McCaffery's first moves as Iowa's head men's basketball coach was to hire Kirk Speraw to assist him.
Speraw had Iowa ties as a former Hawkeye player. But far more importantly, he had been a head coach at Central Florida for 17 years, leading the Knights to four NCAA tournaments. And those were all earned when UCF was in the one-bid Atlantic Sun Conference.
But after the school graduated to Conference USA, Speraw was that league's Coach of the Year in 2006-2007.
This is a coaching lifer, someone who got started down that path as a graduate assistant on the 1979-80 Iowa team that reached the Final Four. He was the head coach in 480 Division I games, 247 of them wins.
The Hawkeyes will be anything but rudderless tonight when they play Northwestern without the suspended Fran McCaffery. Now, on with the Fun Facts:
1. Northwestern is the only long-standing member of a BCS conference to have never played in an NCAA men's basketball tournament.
2. Northwestern was the host of the 1956 Final Four, which ended with San Francisco defeating Iowa in the title game.
3. The Wildcats haven't had a winning Big Ten record since they were 8-6 in 1967-68. They were 8-8 in 2003-04.
4. Northwestern did win 20, 20 and 19 games, respectively, in the three seasons immediately before last season. But its best league mark in that stretch was 8-10.
5. The Wildcats have five losses by double-digit margins ... and it's only Jan. 9.
6. Northwestern guard Drew Crawford is two-thirds a DeAndre Kane. Both are fifth-year seniors. Like the Iowa State senior guard, Crawford is 6-foot-5. Like Kane, he is averaging 16.0 points and 7.3 rebounds (Kane averages 16.1 and 7.1). But Kane is surrounded by much-better players, and averages 6.3 assists. Crawford averages 2.2. Crawford is the Big Ten's active leading scorer with 1,642 career points.
7. Northwestern averages a Big Ten-low 64.5 points per game, and scored a total of just 100 points in its two Big Ten games, losses to Wisconsin and Michigan.
8. First-year Wildcats Coach Chris Collins' mother, Kathy, is from Cedar Rapids. Chris chose Duke over Iowa when he was a top high school recruit. His dad, Doug Collins, was a longtime NBA player and coach who was an assistant coach at Pennsylvania when Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery played there. (I gleaned that nugget from Skip Myslenski at Northwestern's athletics site. Check the entire article here.)
9. Kansas State director of basketball operations Drew Speraw is Kirk Speraw's son.
10. Northwestern College's men's basketball team defeated Dakota Wesleyan Wednesday night, 70-66 in overtime. The Red Raiders are 10-8. Zack Leeper of Adair scored 26 points for Northwestern, and has 63 points in his last two games. Northwestern has won two NAIA national-championships under current coach Kris Korver.