Iowa Basketball News Round-Up: Kris Murray Testing NBA Draft, Billy Taylor Leaving, Big Ten Tourney Moving

By RossWB on April 20, 2022 at 8:54 pm
kris murray
@IowaHoops (Twitter)

Gonna try to get on a little bit more regular posting schedule, but in the meantime let's recap some recent hoops stories over the last week or so. 

Kris Murray: Dipping His Toes In The NBA Draft Waters

Keegan Murray already announced his plans to forgo his remaining college eligibility and enter the NBA Draft and now his twin brother Kris is joining him -- sort of. Kris will also be going through the NBA Draft process and getting feedback from professional coaches and scouts, but he isn't planning to sign with an agent and won't be forgoing his remaining college eligibility, which means he would still be able to return to Iowa next season, depending on what feedback he gets.

This is not an unusual decision for Iowa players; in recent years we've also seen Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, and Tyler Cook do the same thing. Getting that NBA Draft feedback can be exceptionally valuable, both giving a player a clear(er) sense of whether he's likely to be selected (and at what part of the draft) and also giving him excellent feedback about skills to try and improve. We don't know what sort of feedback Kris will receive or what his decision will ultimately be, though Fran McCaffery expressed confidence earlier this month that Kris would be back at Iowa next year. And while Keegan has been a fixture on mock drafts, Kris hasn't been quite as present. There's a good chance that he returns to Iowa City next season in hopes of duplicating the sort of stupendous leap forward that Keegan took this past season. We'd certainly welcome that with open arms. 

Obviously, though, we'll support Kris Murray with whatever decision he ultimately opts to make. Best of luck in the NBA Draft process, Kris. 

Billy Taylor Leaving Iowa Staff To Become Elon Head Coach

We've also got a lil' shake-up on the coaching staff for Iowa men's basketball, with assistant Billy Taylor moving on to become the new head coach at Elon. Taylor was Iowa's director of basketball operations from 2013-2016 and became an assistant coach in 2019, replacing Andrew Francis, who took an assistant coaching job at Cal.

As noted in Matt Norlander's tweet, Taylor has past head coaching experience at Lehigh, Ball State, and Belmont Abbey, so it's no surprise that he still has the itch to be a head man. Taylor even (briefly) got to serve as head coach at Iowa, filling in for Fran McCaffery (out with COVID) in Iowa's win over Minnesota on February 6. Good luck at Elon, coach. 

Taylor's primary recruiting focus was Chicago/Illinois. As a coach, he didn't specialize in any particular tactics or work with a specific position unit, but he was reportedly very well-liked by Iowa's players and that bond will surely be missed. Will Iowa look for an external hire (Jeff Horner? Dean Oliver? Someone who didn't attend the University of Iowa?!) to replace him or promote from within? TBD, although several Iowa media types believe Courtney Eldridge is a strong contender to get the job. He's been Iowa's director of player development and recruiting for several years. Iowa players (and especially some recent recruits) have raved about Eldridge, so he could be ready for a more defined (and official) role on the Iowa staff.  

Big Ten Basketball Tournaments: On The Move

Both the men's and women's incarnations of the Big Ten Basketball Tournaments are taking a break -- at least briefly -- from residency in Indianapolis. They're heading to the other significant -apolis in Big Ten territory... and I ain't talking about Mediapolis. The Big Ten Basketball Tournaments are headed to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and Minneapolis' Target Center. 

The women's Big Ten Tournament is headed to Minneapolis immediately and will play its next two iterations there, in 2023 and 2024. That should be a particularly exciting news for Iowa fans, making for an even shorter trip to see Caitlin Clark & Co. -- defending Big Ten Tournament champions! -- do their thing. The men's Big Ten Tournament will also be in Minneapolis in 2024. 

Somewhat surprisingly, this will be the first time that Minneapolis has hosted either the men's or women's tournaments. Minneapolis' hosting bona fides are well-established, though; it's hosted a Super Bowl and a Final Four within the last five years (events they've also hosted prior to that), as well as several NCAA Tournament regionals. And Target Center actually just served as the location for the Woman's Final Four. 

Both tournaments have been held outside of Indianapolis before, of course. The men's tournament has regularly rotated between Indianapolis and Chicago, plus East Coast excursions to Washington, D.C. in 2017 and New York City in 2018. The women's tournament has been much more of a fixture in Indianapolis; only three of the previous 28 women's Big Ten Tournaments haven't been in Indianapolis. Welcome to Minnesota, Big Ten Basketball Tournaments!

Emerald Coast Hawkeyes

Iowa hasn't been to a neutral site non-conference tournament in November since 2019 -- COVID restrictions put those events on ice in 2020-21 and Iowa opted not to participate in one last season -- but the Hawkeyes are headed back to a Thanksgiving weekend event in 2022. 

Iowa's set to play in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, FL, on Thanksgiving weekend 2022. The Emerald Coast Classic is set to take place on November 25-26 at Raider Arena on the campus of Northwest Florida State College. If the Emerald Coast Classic sounds familiar, it's probably because Iowa competed in this event back in 2016; it, uh, did not go well. Iowa went 0-2 in that event, getting demolished by Virginia, 74-41, and losing 100-92 to Memphis in the follow-up game. Jordan Bohannon was but a callow freshman in those games. 

The 2022 Emerald Coast Classic field is set to include Iowa, TCU, Clemson, and Cal. TCU had the best season of those squads in 2021-22, emerging from the meat grinder of the Big XII conference with a fifth-place finish and an 8-10 conference record; they finished 26th in the KenPom rankings and earned a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament and thumped Seton Hall (69-42) before bowing out to Arizona in the second round in a narrow 85-80 OT defeat. Clemson went 17-16 overall, finished 71st in the KenPom rankings, and played in no postseason tournaments. Cal was dreadful, going 12-20 overall and finishing 142nd in the final KenPom rankings. 

Does any of that matter much for the 2022 Emerald Coast Classic? Probably not. It's hard to know exactly who will be back and who won't be (as Iowa fans know very well right now -- see the Kris Murray item earlier in this post), which makes it awfully difficult to forecast who might be good and who might not be in 7+ months when these games tip off. (Although it's worth noting that Cal hasn't had a winning record since 2016-17, so recent history certainly suggests that they could be pretty lousy again, barring a significant talent upgrade this offseason.) We can speculate about potential wins and losses in this event in a few months' time, when we have a better idea of who each team will be playing in the event -- as well as who will actually be playing on each team. In the meantime, if you want to spend Thanksgiving weekend watching Iowa basketball play somewhere warm, rejoice -- you can head down to Florida and do so this November. 

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