As we heard Thursday, Iowa's Big Ten basketball schedule was released, and with that the season slate is all but finalized; all that's left to find out is who the last Emerald Coast Classic foe is, and that hinges on a looming war with Virginia. The college basketball team, I mean, not the commonwealth. Or VCU.
|FRI 11/04/16||TBA||REGIS (Exhibition)||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|FRI 11/11/16||TBA||KENNESAW STATE||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SUN 11/13/16||TBA||SAVANNAH STATE||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|THU 11/17/16||8:00 PM||SETON HALL||Iowa City, IA||BTN|
|SUN 11/20/16||TBA||UT-RIO GRANDE VALLEY (Emerald Coast Classic)||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SAT 12/03/16||TBA||NEBRASKA OMAHA||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|MON 12/05/16||TBA||STETSON||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|THU 12/08/16||7:00 PM||IOWA STATE (Cy-Hawk Series)||Iowa City, IA||ESPN2|
|TUE 12/20/16||8:00 PM||NORTH DAKOTA||Iowa City, IA||BTN|
|THU 12/22/16||8:00 PM||DELAWARE STATE||Iowa City, IA||BTN|
|SUN 1/01/17||TBA||MICHIGAN||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SUN 1/08/17||TBA||RUTGERS||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|THU 1/12/17||TBA||PURDUE||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|THU 1/19/17||TBA||MARYLAND||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SAT 1/28/17||TBA||OHIO STATE||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SUN 2/05/17||TBA||NEBRASKA||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SAT 2/18/17||TBA||ILLINOIS||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|TUE 2/21/17||TBA||INDIANA||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
|SUN 3/5/17||TBA||PENN STATE||Iowa City, IA||TBA|
Everything Ross said about the schedule is dead-on, and it's one that probably bodes well for the Hawkeyes; there's a nice mix of challenging away games, home thrillers, and games that Iowa should take nine times out of ten. There's also the potential for another late swoon, mind you—@Minnesota, @Michigan State, vs. Illinois, vs. Indiana, @Maryland and @Wisconsin is a hellacious stretch through February and the beginning of March—but if Iowa can even go 3-3 through that part of the season, another winning Big Ten season's totally fair to expect.
There's another thing to notice here, though, and it's that the home slate this season is... well, it's kind of awesome.
Fine we'll play the Pirates but if they get to play with the knives in their mouth that's not fair
Okay, the last time Iowa State came to town, things were close, then they were not even remotely close, then Georges Niang blew kisses to the student section and it was extremely not well received, then Gary Dolphin spent the rest of the evening on the postgame show talking about the game like he had just watched the first half-hour of Saving Private Ryan and this time zee Germans won. Yeah. Not great, Bob.
But for as rough as 2014 was, we can at least discuss it; by way of comparison, I'm still not emotionally prepared to talk about last season's trip to Ames. All of which is to say this year's game is still Iowa-ISU at Carver, which means that stupid Hilton Magic is somebody else's problem now.
Anyway, both teams should be pleasantly feisty, so should both fan bases, and an ESPN2 audience will give the game the national heft it deserves.
ISU's not the only big-name team coming to Carver-Hawkeye; Iowa also hosts Seton Hall in the "Gavitt Games," the Big East-Big Ten season series that branded itself with the name of a guy most basketball fans have never heard of, for reasons passing understanding. It's a nice consolation for having to go to Notre Dame for the much more sensibly named Big Ten-ACC Challenge; Seton's missing überguard Isaiah Whitehead, who left for the NBA, but the Pirates are still dangerous enough to make the game worth watching.
The non-conference schedule gets thin after that, but in case you haven't noticed, this is major-conference college basketball. The annual cupcake parade comes with it. Do keep an eye on Nebraska-Omaha, who annually play one of the fastest tempos in D-I ball (wheee!) and whom you'll remember from 2014's scare when they led at Carver with nine minutes left before crumbling. I'd like to believe Fran McCaffery and Peter Jok have been sitting and seething since that day, waiting for their shot at revenge.
This Is Where I'd Make A "The Weeknd" Reference If I Knew Any Songs By The Weeknd
Onto the Big Ten slate, though. Here's a theorem I'd like to posit:
When holding the quality of opponents constant, weekend games are superior to weekday games.
It makes sense, right? Especially with the Big Ten's weeknight doubleheader format that puts you into either a 6 pm tipoff (hope you're getting off work early if you've got tickets!) or 8 pm (hope you like driving late at night in the winter!). Not everybody works an 8-5, Monday-to-Friday schedule, we get that, but enough people do that it's nice when the season tickets interfere with that schedule as little as possible.
And lo and behold, of Iowa's nine Big Ten home games... six are on the weekend. Six of nine! Nice. That's the first time since the Big Ten went back to 18 conference games that Iowa has had such a weekend-friendly home balance.
Even better, none of the three weeknight Big Ten home games are clunkers, and they're probably the three most exciting conference games we're hosting: Purdue (1/12), Maryland (1/19) and Indiana (2/21). Those are games worth getting a babysitter for. Except if you don't have kids. Don't do that.
And let's be honest: this schedule would not look very fun if Iowa were on track to go 5-13. That's possible but not plausible; if this team's healthy, it's deep and athletic enough to contend for yet another consecutive NCAA berth, and it'll be fun to watch Peter Jok lead that freshman class forward.
At the same time, Iowa's probably not going to contend for the Big Ten championship, not unless Fran rolled a six on several freshmen, but that might be even better; if there's no weight of sudden expectations to collapse under, we might just see a consistent late push as the team fights for tourney standing with every single one of its 18 Big Ten games, like with the 2015 squad. It's totally fair to think there's something more than just one win at stake when Penn State comes to Carver-Hawkeye on March 5 for the season finale and Senior Day—also much more fun when there isn't another regular season road game looming, by the way—and the atmosphere there should be something approaching delirium.
The slate's not perfect, obviously; Michigan State and Wisconsin never come to town, and we'd take a visit from either of them instead of the sure-win nothingburger that comes from that second game against Rutgers. Two Saturday Big Ten games is better than zero, but it's still just two. And as of right now, none of the weekend visitors are in the ESPN Way Too Early Top 25, so unless Michigan or Ohio State
or Nebr okay just those two make the leap, those super-satisfying afternoon blowouts over that usually push Iowa up a seed or two in the Bracketology probably aren't coming this year.
But that's it for complaints. This looks like a lot of fun, and if you have the means to get (and use) season tickets, this might be the year to do it.