We have a pretty good sense of what Iowa basketball's 2019-20 schedule is going to look like, at least in terms of who they're going to play. Start time information, as well as the sequence of Iowa's Big Ten games and a few more non-conference games is still TBD, but the big pieces are in place. Courtesy of Scott Dochterman, we have a good idea of the non-conference schedule:
Update: Iowa MBB non-con sked 2019-20:— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) May 29, 2019
Nov 6 SIU-Edwardsville
Nov 11 DePaul
Nov 15-25 2 prelim LV Invite home games
Nov 28-29 LV Invite (2-Creighton, SD State/Texas Tech)
Dec 2-4 ACC Challenge
Dec 12 at Iowa State
Dec 15 Oral Roberts
Dec 21 Cincinnati (Chicago)
Dec 29 Kennesaw St
That's 11 non-conference games, which is what Iowa played last season and what will be the new normal going forward, given the Big Ten's current 20-game league schedule. The only details to be sorted out in terms of who Iowa will be playing are the identities of the two teams Iowa plays in the Las Vegas Invitational preliminary games (SPOILER: no one worth knowing), who they play in the second game of the Las Vegas Invitational (either South Dakota State or Texas Tech; per Jon Rothstein, they'll be facing Creighton in their first game in Vegas), and who they draw in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
How does that potential schedule compared to what Iowa faced in 2018? It does look more challenging -- but not necessarily dramatically so. Iowa has three opponents who finished 200th or lower in last season's KenPom rankings: SIU-Edwardsville (330), Oral Roberts (290), and Kennesaw State (339). You can go ahead and pencil in the two TBA opponents for the Las Vegas Invitational prelim games for that range, too, which would give Iowa five opponents in that range. Last year Iowa played... five opponents who ended up ranked 200th or lower in the final KenPom rankings: Alabama State (328), Western Carolina (277), Savannah State (340), Bryant (327), and UMKC (238). So those games should be a wash, more or less.
Iowa State is Iowa's only annual non-conference opponent now and they should again be a big test for Iowa, particularly since the game will be in Ames. Iowa's big non-conference tournament was the 2K Sports Classic in New York City last year, where they played Oregon and UConn, who finished 28th and 98th, respectively, in the final KenPom rankings. Iowa will face Creighton and either South Dakota State or Texas Tech in this year's big non-conference tournament; those three teams finished 55th, 92nd, and 5th, respectively, in the final KenPom rankings. South Dakota State and Texas Tech both have a lot to replace from their 2018 squads, but on paper Iowa's non-conference tournament opponents could be a definite step up in 2019 versus 2018.
Iowa drew the weakest team they could have in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge last year; Pitt was dead last in the ACC in 2018. That pairing made sense given that Iowa also finished near the bottom of the Big Ten in 2018. After an improved finish in 2019 (6th), Iowa's ought to be in line for a more challenging ACC opponent this year (Louisville, Syracuse, Clemson, NC State, and Georgia Tech all finished in the 6-10 range in the ACC last year and may be potential opponents for Iowa this season). That leaves just two remaining non-league games. Last year Iowa's other two non-conference games were against Green Bay and UNI (in the now-defunct Big Four Classic); they ended the season ranked 185th and 177th, respectively, in the final KenPom rankings. This year Iowa is swapping out those games for games against DePaul (in Iowa City) and Cincinnati (on a neutral court in Chicago). DePaul and Cincinnati finished last season ranked 118th and 29th, respectively, in the final KenPom rankings. Both teams are dealing with major departures from last season's squads (including the loss of Mick Cronin as Cincinnati's head coach), but on paper certainly look like upgrades on Green Bay and UNI.
What about the Big Ten? Well, we know who Iowa will be playing both home and away, as well as who they'll only face at home or away.
The deadline for players to stay in the 2019 NBA Draft or return to school has passed, so we have a little better sense of what teams will look like next year, although we'll have a much better sense next fall. That said, there are some positives in Iowa's schedule draw for 2020. Right now, Michigan State looks like the runaway leader in the Big Ten (they're a heavy favorite to start the season at #1 in the country as well), with Maryland and Ohio State as the Big Ten teams generating the most buzz behind them. Iowa has single-plays against two of those three teams (MSU and OSU), which will limit the number of times they have to take on the conference's elites.
Minnesota and Penn State are currently picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, so getting to play each of them twice could be advantageous (although Iowa's recent track record in games at Happy Valley or Minneapolis is... not great). Among the other double-play opponents, Michigan and Nebraska have had very tumultuous off-seasons, which may be to Iowa's benefit next winter. Purdue will be without the services of all-everything player Carsen Edwards and while Illinois will probably be improved from what they were in 2019, they don't look that scary yet.
It is unfortunate that Iowa will only play Rutgers and Northwestern once each next year; those two squads are also projected near the bottom of the Big Ten. Not having to play Wisconsin at the Kohl Center is always nice, though, and while Indiana is usually tough in Bloomington, Iowa did win there in 2019 -- maybe they can make it two in a row in Hoosierland this winter? Overall, Iowa's Big Ten schedule seems like it could have been a lot worse.
Of course, the biggest question mark with regards to Iowa hoops for 2019-20 is the team itself; after a few seasons with quite a bit of continuity, Iowa is probably heading into next season minus three starters from this year's team, plus a do-everything sixth man. Replacing all of that leadership, experience, and production won't be easy.
What are your thoughts on Iowa's 2019-20 schedule as it stands? Exciting? Terrifying? Both?