By Patrick Vint on April 2, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Don't look up, Ryan.
© David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

A quick note, before we get to another trio of first-round games.  With the stay-at-home guidance extended through at least April, we're not in a real hurry, so we'll observe usual Go Iowa Awesome posting rules.  That means no games over the weekend. 

Today, we get a battle of under-recruited McCaffery-era bigs, a matchup of similar styles in very dissimilar bodies, and the return of two of the most talented players of the Lickliter regime.  Here are the one-on-one rules:

  • shoot for first possession
  • alternating possessions
  • play to 15, must win by 2
  • 3s are worth 3 points

Moss over Thompson 15-1 (94-6)
Jok over Payne 15-0 (100-0)
Cole over Henderson 15-10 (68-32) 

GAME ONE: No. 7 Melsahn Basabe vs. No. 10 Ryan Kriener

Fran McCaffery was hired at Iowa in late March 2010.  At that time, he was head coach at Siena, a small school in upstate New York.  He had two recruits in his current class.  One player, a guard, stayed with Siena's new staff.  The other, a power forward named Basabe, was quickly offered a scholarship with McCaffery's new program, and accepted in early May.  We expected him to be filler; after all, he had committed to Siena for a reason.  Instead, Melsahn Basabe started every game as a freshman, and averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds per game.  As Iowa's talent improved, Basabe's role diminished, but he racked up 101 starts over four years and was, at worst, a high-efficiency sixth man who could make a jumper, grab a board, or run the court on the break.

Ryan Kriener's skill set wasn't the same as Basabe's, but his role was similar for the most recent four Iowa squads.  Kriener was similarly unrecruited out of Spirit Lake, Iowa (he had played in Cedar Rapids for a while, and was an AAU teammate of Jordan Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl).  While he was never the consistent starter that Basabe was -- he started eight games, all as an upperclassman -- he quickly became one of McCaffery's favorite options off the bench.  As a senior, he was forced into a sixth-man do-it-all frontcourt role due to injuries, and averaged 8 points and 4 boards.

GAME TWO: No. 3 Greg Brunner vs. No. 14 Joe Toussiant

On the surface, there may not be much similar about Greg Brunner, a 6'7" Alford-era power forward, and Joe Toussiant, a 6'0" point guard, but these two have more in common than you might think.  Both Bru and Joey Toots punished defenders with a borderline-reckless need to get to the basket in any way possible, frequently devolving to putting one's head down and charging forward.

Brunner was probably the most important player on the best Iowa team of the last 25 years, posting 14 points and 9 boards a game for the 2005-06 Hawkeyes.  He led the Big Ten in rebounding that year, was 11th in field goals made and second in free throws made, as he drew contact like a magnet and then threw it off like a cheap coat.  Brunner was arguably as good in the previous season -- he was sixth in the conference in effective field goal rate (despite rarely shooting a three), second in rebounding, and in the Big Ten top 20 in steals, blocks, free throws and field goals -- and was among the top two rebounders in the conference three times.  He was, basically, a reasonable facsimile of Reggie Evans, which makes a damn good college basketball player.

We only know one season of Toussiant, but "get to the basket at all costs" also fits.  Toussiant averaged 6.5 points and 3 steals as a freshman, despite getting most of his minutes after Jordan Bohannon's injury (in other words, in the most competitive and deep Big Ten in a decade).  Toussiant never found a consistent outside shot in 2019-20, but dude could get to the rim and break down a defense in the process, and he could run the break.

GAME THREE:  No. 7 Anthony Tucker vs. No. 10 Cyrus Tate

Tucker is one of the great what-might-have-been stories of the Lickliter Era; Todd needed a few of those to pan out if he was to survive, and he never really got them.  Tucker was arguably the best player for the first two Lickliter teams.  The 6'4" guard averaged 10 points and 3 rebounds a game in 2008-09, despite playing a fraction of the minutes of Jake Kelly, Matt Gatens and Jeff Peterson ahead of him.  Of course, it was Lickliter, so Tucker was inexplicably going to play fewer minutes: He got just eight starts in 14 games before being suspended, then ruled academically ineligible.  In his sophomore season, Tucker suffered an early-season injury, played in 11 games, and then got suspended again.  He left the program that February, a precursor to the defections that marked the Lickliter regime.

Tate, a burly 6'8" power forward, was an Alford holdover.  He started 22 games in the final Alford season, and never reached that level under Lickliter: Lickball never had much use for an inside banger who couldn't shoot from the perimeter.  Still, Tate started at least 19 games per season in the two he played for Lickliter and was a captain in his final season, averaging 6.5 points and 5 boards for his three-year career.  Of course, this being Lickliter, Team Captain Cyrus Tate had a career-low 18 starts and only appeared in 23 games while nursing an ankle injury.  Best tidbit of all: At last check, he's playing for the Tijuana Zonkeys of the Mexican League.


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