It's July, but the non-conference opponents Iowa men's basketball will be playing in 2021-22 are (almost) all basically known at this point, thanks to a pair of announcements over the last week. First, Iowa announced a neutral site clash with Utah State in Sioux Falls.
That will be Iowa's third game in Sioux Falls since 2017, which includes an Iowa win over Colorado (in 2017) and a Hawkeye defeat to Gonzaga in a hotly-anticipated Top 5 showdown last December. The Sanford Pentagon has proven to be a hospitable (and, presumably, profitable) home away from home for the Hawkeyes, and we should probably get used to Iowa playing a non-conference game there on a fairly regular basis.
The other big non-conference schedule announcement came earlier this week when the match-ups for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge were set for this winter. Iowa will be heading to Charlottesville to take on Virginia on November 29.
SCHEDULE UPDATE— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 28, 2021
The #Hawkeyes are scheduled to play at Virginia for the first time in the 22 years of the Big Ten/ACC Men's Basketball Challenge.
STORY: https://t.co/oo8xOy8mZQ pic.twitter.com/2euGJNQMYi
Did you know that Iowa has won three games in a row in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and six of their last eight contests? It's true! Iowa beat North Carolina last year, dumped Syracuse in 2019, and edged Pitt in 2018. The days of Iowa's abject misery in this event have been a thing of the past for a while under Fran. Hopefully that recent trend of success continues this year, although toppling Virginia in Charlottesville will certainly be a tough ask for a rebuilding Iowa squad.
Iowa's only other non-conference road game this winter will be their annual intra-state showdown with Iowa State. The non-conference opponents Iowa will welcome to Carver-Hawkeye Arena were announced by The Cedar Rapids Gazette earlier this year. The full schedule looks something like this:
|11/29/22||Virginia (ACC-Big Ten Challenge)||Charlottesville, VA|
|12/18/22||Utah State||Sioux Falls, SD|
|TBA||Iowa State||Ames, IA|
|TBA||Alabama State||Iowa City, IA|
|TBA||Chattanooga||Iowa City, IA|
|TBA||University of Missouri-Kansas City||Iowa City, IA|
|TBA||North Carolina Central||Iowa City, IA|
|TBA||Northern Illinois||Iowa City, IA|
|TBA||South Dakota||Iowa City, IA|
|TBA||Southern||Iowa City, IA|
Dates (as well as tip-off times and TV broadcast information) will be announced at a later date. There's also one more non-conference opponent still to be identified.
Iowa was not selected to play against a Big East opponent in the Gavitt Tip-Off Games this season; with the Big East having 11 teams and the Big Ten having 14 squads, some B1G teams are always going to be left out of the party. Iowa last played in the event in 2019, losing 93-78 to DePaul.
Iowa also isn't playing in a neutral site exempt tournament this fall, which may be a lingering effect of COVID-19. I would guess they'll return to participating in one of those events soon, likely in the 2022-23 season.
That home slate is certainly lacking from an intrigue standpoint. Five of the seven listed opponents finished at 308th or lower in last season's KenPom rankings. Just two -- Chattanooga and South Dakota -- had winning records and finished inside the Top 200 in the KenPom rankings. Hopefully what this schedule lacks in sizzle it makes up for in wins and opportunities to develop players. Of course, he softness of this schedule is directly tied to the fact that Iowa will be attempting to replace the National Player of the Year (Luka Garza), their second-best player (Joe Wieskamp), and two key members of their rotation (CJ Fredrick and Jack Nunge). Next year Iowa is going to have a very different -- and very young (mostly) -- team. Giving them some easier prey in the non-conference portion of the schedule will ideally help them build confidence heading into Big Ten play.
Thoughts on Iowa drawing Virginia in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge? Or playing another game in Sioux Falls? Or any other schedule-related thoughts? Hit up the comments.