To say Iowa played at a snail's pace under former coach Todd Lickliter might actually be overstating the speed at which the Hawkeyes played. Their 62.6 adjusted tempo was 321st last season amongst the 347th Division I teams.
Iowa has a new coach this season in Fran McCaffrey and he is promising a more up-tempo style. Last season, his Siena team was 39th in the nation with an adjusted tempo of 70.5.
Iowa's players have been doing plenty of running to prepare for the change in style. Junior guard Matt Gatens told the Iowa Press-Citizen he has lost 20 pounds since the end of last season.
McCaffrey believes that playing at a quicker pace is the best way to get Iowa out of the doldrums. The Hawkeyes went 10-22 last year and were 38-58 in Lickliter's three seasons on the job.
“It’s really hard in college basketball today to play slow, unless you’re winning a lot of games,” McCaffery said. “People just don’t want to see that. And there are some teams that do it, and they get by with it and they win and people come to appreciate it but let’s face it, people want to see a fast break. They want to see an alley-oop dunk. They want to see athletic plays. They want to see talented players doing things in transition, and that’s what I enjoy coaching.”
Iowa was 341st with a 58.5 adjusted tempo in the 2008-09 and 333rd with a 60.4 mark in 2007-08. The Hawkeyes failed to score 60 points in 54 of Lickliter's 96 games. Not surprisingly, Iowa's attendance dropped to an average of just 9,550 a game last season. By comparison, McCaffrey's Siena teams were held under 60 points just nine times in 163 games in five seasons.
“I let my guys play,” McCaffery said. “At the same time, there’s got to be a plan behind it. You just don’t turn them loose and play with reckless abandon. We can’t have that. But we have to be able to understand that sometimes, when you give talented players space, it’s a lot better than coming down and playing against a stacked defense every possession.”
Gatens was Iowa's leading scorer last season when he averaged 12.3 points/4.3 rebounds/3.3 assists/36.7 minutes a game while ranking 20th in the nation in percentage of minutes played with 91.3. Slimmed down to 208 pounds, Gatens is moving from forward to guard this season and McCaffrey is expecting big things, saying "He's actually driving and dunking the ball like he used to.”
McCaffrey also believes sophomore forward Eric May should benefit from his system. May averaged 9.0/4.6/1.4/31.0 last season.
"He's got blinding speed,” McCaffery said. “He can one-dribble dunk from one step beyond the 3-point line. He’s that explosive. And I think that what you need to do is get him the space that he needs, and you’re better able to come by that in transition that you are in the half-court.”
Hazell and Pope Key for Seton Hall
Jeremy Hazell was a bright spot in Seton Hall's tumultuous 2009-10 season as he posted a line of 20.4/3.5/1.5/31.7 while finishing seven nationally in turnover rate (8.0) and 47th in percentage of shots (31.6). However, new Pirates coach Kevin Willard believes Hazell is ready to have a senior season that will see him do more than just score.
"When I see him work out and do one-on-one stuff, it’s amazing how much I’m blown away by his skills and athleticism," Willard told the Bridgewater Courier News. "When he goes 5-on-5 he settles for shooting jump shots instead of showing off his total game. We’re in the process of getting Jeremy to understand he is a well-rounded player, not having to be just a scorer. So far I think he’s enjoyed the role of trying to create shots for other guys. I think we’re going to see a different Jeremy Hazell this year."
Junior forward Herb Pope is expected to be ready for the start of the season after collapsing following a workout in April and having to be revived with paddles after his heart stopped. He had a fine first season at Seton Hall last winter, averaging 11.5/10.7/2.0/30.0 after transferring from New Mexico State. His 23.7 defensive rebounding percentage was 57th nationally and he was 66th with a 13.4 offensive rebounding percentage.
"I think it's been tremendous for the program that we got Herb back," Willard said. "Herb’s healthy and he’s 100 percent. It was tough because of all the uncertainty. All you want is the best for the player. You want him to have a great career that goes on for years and years. It’s been great because of how well Herb’s come back and how tough of a young man he is, and how much he’s battled. From that standpoint every day is a great day."
Replacing Robbie Hummel
Purdue undoubtedly will miss senior forward Robbie Hummel, who is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. He had a 15.7/6.9/2.1/30.3 line last season and was a big reason why the Boilermakers were considered serious national title contenders this season.
However, those around the Purdue program have high hopes that sophomore forward Patrick Bade might be ready to pick up some of the slack with Hummel sidelined. The 6-foot-8 Bade lost 18 pounds over the summer to drop to 225 as he focused on changing his diet and running following a freshman season in which he averaged 1.5/1.6/0.1/7.3.
"I didn't really get to show my athletic ability so much last year at that weight, so I figured if I'd drop, I'd be able to show," Bade told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. "I've gained a lot of positive things from it. I'm a lot quicker, able to guard faster people, able to jump a lot higher, and I'm just able to move. It's kind of helped my jump shot. I'm able to get up in the air a little more. I don't get tired as quickly, so I can keep going at a harder pace. It's really helped my ballhandling skills. I feel like I'm a lot quicker with the ball when I'm dribbling and I'm able to protect it better, be a lot quicker for when defenders reach in."
Hummel has noticed the results of Bade's off-season work, "I think he's made major strides to being a very good post player in the Big Ten."
Rough Start for Bzdelik
Jeff Bzdelik's first season as Wake Forest's coach is not off to a rousing start. His young Demon Deacons have been beset by injuries during the preseason, not a good thing for a team that has just 10 scholarship players.
Freshman point guard Tony Chennault injured a foot while running during conditioning drills. Another freshman, shooting guard J.T. Terrell, has a broken thumb that he suffered while taking a charge from teammate Melvin Tabb in practice. Sophomore small forward Ari Stewart has been dealing the effects of a concussion.
No wonder Bzdelik is joking that he is ready to fire his trainer. At least, we think he's joking. However, Bzdelik is looking on the bright side as he takes over for Dino Gaudio, who was unexpectedly fired following a 20-11 season in 2009-10.
“The way we’re approaching it with J.T. is that it’s a blessing in disguise,” Bzdelik said. “We know he can make shots. What he can do now is defend every possession in practice. We’re going to wrap that cast up and he will approach it in a way (of) turning a negative into a positive so he can defend and improve his game from that standpoint. He should have that cast off and be ready for the first game. Tony Chennault, with a sore foot, we’re erring on the side of caution by keeping him off that foot. He’s never worn orthotics and perhaps the right shoes, and he’s never run as much as he has now, so he’s gotten a little sore. There’s no fracture there, which is all good. Ari’s concussion is improving on a daily basis. We’re erring on the side of caution with him, because he did take a pretty good knock on the head.”
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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