By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
The schedule now gets real for Iowa’s men’s basketball team.
Starting with Wednesday’s Gavitt Games matchup at Seton Hall, the Hawkeyes (2-0, 18 KenPom) will play seven of their next eight games against the top six power conferences in college basketball.
The Pirates (2-0, 36 KenPom) from the Big East are first on that list that also includes ACC schools Clemson, Georgia Tech and Duke, Iowa State from the Big 12, the Big Ten opener at home against Wisconsin, and either TCU or California on the second day of the Emerald Coast Classic.
All of this, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said on Monday, is to get ready for the full Big Ten schedule heading into March.
“I think when you look at the Gavitt Games in general, that’s what it was supposed to be for (the Big Ten and Big East),” McCaffery said. “To play quality opponents on television, create interest early in the season, and prepare us for conference games that are coming, the (multi-team events) that are coming, and obviously for us the ACC/Big TenChallenge as well. So I think it’s just another opportunity to play a great team that has a particular style that will challenge us in every way.”
Seton Hall, under new coach Shaheen Holloway, has wins over Monmouth and Saint Peter’s to start the season. The Pirates have four players who average in double figures, led by Al-Amir Dawes and Tyrese Samuel, who average 11.5 points each.
“They are very good and they’re deep,” McCaffery said. “They’re obviously well-coached. They have, I think, a really good collection of pieces — athletes, drivers, shooters, power guys, versatility.”
McCaffery is impressed with Holloway, recalling his days as a player at Seton Hall.
“His teams play hard,” McCaffery said. “They compete. I would say they’re probably a reflection of him. That’s how he was. And that’s what you have to expect when you play this team.”
NIMMERS WILL REDSHIRT: McCaffery said walk-on guard Amarion Nimmers will redshirt this season.
Nimmers, a 6-foot-2 guard from Rock Island, Ill., had a wrist injury during preseason practice, but McCaffery said the decision to redshirt was more about preparing him for the future.
“It makes no sense for a walk-on to play his first year,” McCaffery said. “You look at you know, track record of Austin Ash, Michael Baer, Darius Stokes, Riley Till, even guys like Kyle Denning, who we ended up giving a scholarship to. You want to maintain that eligibility on the back end, give him a year to get adjusted, to learn the system.”
McCaffery said a redshirt year helps players grow.
“It enables him to take advantage of five years to play if he wants to,” McCaffery said. “He wants to graduate, he can. But I think you know, when he’s 22, he’ll be a pretty darn good player. It’ll either be playing here, or it’ll be playing somewhere else. He’ll have options, and I think I have the responsibility to make sure he has options.”
ALMOST A PIRATE: McCaffery considered becoming the head coach at Seton Hall before he took the Iowa job in 2010.
“We were very close,” McCaffery said of nearly taking the Seton Hall job. “Pat Hobbs was running the search — he’s now the AD at Rutgers, terrific guy. And really, when you’re involved in coaching searches, you just want to deal with professional people and he’s as professional as they come. So we had some preliminary discussions, (and) we were going to continue that discussion. I was going through the interview process at Iowa, and (Iowa athletics director Gary Barta) called and offered the position. We were getting ready to head down to Seton Hall for further discussion. And I accepted the Iowa position.”
Photo: Iowa’s Payton Sandfort (left) and Riley Mulvey celebrate during last Friday’s win over North Carolina A&T. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)