Postseason: NCAA: Lost to Cincinnati 76–64 in the first round
Sioux City, IA/East
Westchester, IL/St. Joseph's
Des Moines, IA/DNP 2004-05
St. John's, Antigua/Tyler (TX) CC
None of the recruits will be expected to play a major role this season. Freeman has good quickness, but his outside shot is questionable at this stage. Looby, a junior-college transfer, is raw, but athletic. He might need a year to adjust to Big Ten competition.
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Say what you want about Steve Alford -- which a lot of people have during his controversial six-year reign at Iowa -- but here he is, still coaching the Hawkeyes.
Last year, as Iowa fell to 4-9 in the Big Ten, columnists began writing Alford's obituary and fans began looking for his replacement.
But the Hawkeyes rallied, winning their final three regular season games and two games in the Big Ten Tournament to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. And they did so without leading scorer Pierre Pierce, who was kicked off the team in early February after being charged with assault.
The fun, however, was short-lived as Cincinnati pounded Iowa in the first round of the Tournament, and looked physically superior while doing so.
Now fans want more than a quick exit from the NCAA tournament. For starters, they'd like to see Iowa enjoy a winning record in the Big Ten, which has only happened once in six seasons under Alford.
The pieces are in place for Iowa to be successful, with four full-time starters returning, plus another player who started 14 games. But Alford's teams have been in this position before and failed to deliver.
Senior forward Greg Brunner was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season and has steadily become one of the top power forwards in the conference. He is aggressive, athletic and hard to stop near the basket. He averaged 14.7 points per game last season, along with 8.3 rebounds, which ranked near the top of the conference. After losing 15 pounds during the summer, Brunner should be even quicker this year.
Doug Thomas, an athletic 6-foot-8 forward, showed flashes last season but mostly just as a high-flying dunker. The former junior college transfer has to expand his game on both ends of the floor or risk seeing his minutes drop.
Alex Thompson went from being a timid and shy freshman at the beginning of last season to a key performer off the bench by the end. He is more versatile than most 6-9 forwards.
Erek Hansen, a lanky 6-11 senior, is expected to start at center for the second year in a row. He gives the Hawkeyes a defensive presence but little else. Seth Gorney, a 7-foot sophomore, and 6-10 junior-college transfer Kurt Looby will also compete for playing time at center.
While there are more athletic point guards in the Big Ten than Jeff Horner, you'd be hard-pressed to find one with more experience. This will mark the fourth consecutive year that Horner will start for the Hawkeyes. He is one of the Big Ten's top passers and 3-point shooters.
"We finally put things together here at the end of year," Horner says. "Hopefully, we can take all this momentum into next year."
Junior swingman Adam Haluska began to flourish after Pierce was dismissed from the team in February. Haluska, who began his career at Iowa State, had more opportunities to shoot, and he showed he could score on the perimeter or driving to the basket.
Mike Henderson, a 6-2 junior combo guard, also came on strong once Pierce was off the team. Henderson is Iowa's best on-ball defender. He also is a slasher who can score off the dribble.
Freshman point guard Tony Freeman brings needed quickness.
Barring a rash of injuries or other unforeseen problems, Iowa should finish in the upper division of the conference and make the NCAA tournament. But how many times have we heard that before?
Iowa fans have learned to take a wait-and-see attitude and to take nothing for granted. They've been burned too many times by the hype, which might explain why attendance continues to drop.
Big Ten powers Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin all lost key players, so there could be an opportunity for Iowa to move up. Brunner and Horner must stay healthy and the Hawkeyes have to win more consistently at home to make a serious run at the title.