IOWA CITY — Let’s face it, if the Iowa basketball team plays this way in real games in January or February or maybe even November, we’re going to see the wrath of Fran.
There was no defense and very little intensity. The 7-footers were launching threes. There were 17 dunks by 10 different players, including 6-foot-1 Mike Gesell, and an extraordinary number of missed dunks and wild, ill-advised, misdirected lob passes.
But Fran McCaffery’s team achieved its primary goal in Friday night’s Black and Gold Blowout at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We had one job description: Nobody gets hurt,’’ McCaffery said. “We made it.’’
McCaffery described the 20-minute scrimmage by the Hawkeyes as “sort of like the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals,’’ but he said crisp, efficient, serious basketball isn’t really the intent of the Blowout.
“I look at this thing very simply,’’ McCaffery said. “We want them to have fun. We want their families to come and enjoy it. We want the fans to come and enjoy it and see our guys in a little different light.
“It’s fun for everyone. We can’t look at this as anything more than a showcase, a chance for our fans to enjoy them and get to see some of the personalities of some of our guys. Now they can talk about ‘Hey, did you see this guy?’ or “Yeah, there was no defense but what about some of those dunks?’’’
The only real conclusion to be drawn from the evening is that enthusiasm for Hawkeye basketball is perhaps at a higher level than at any time since the glory days of Dr. Tom Davis.
Hundreds of fans were standing outside waiting to get in when the doors opened at 7 p.m. Thousands more streamed into the place during the next hour or so. The final crowd count of 7,140 was only a little larger than at last year’s event but it seemed bigger to many.
“I think it was a lot better than last year,’’ center Gabe Olseni said. “We have a lot more fans, a lot more players … It was exciting to just come out and show our fans all the different players we have.’’
Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff, who tossed in 14 points with a variety of outside shots and inside moves, was impressed by the crowd, too.
“Unbelievable,’’ he said. “I can’t believe this many people came.’’
The university did its best to add to the show and make it much more than just an ordinary scrimmage.
The players on both the men’s and women’s teams made grand entrances from a 10-foot high stage at the north end of the arena. One by one the players stepped out from behind a video curtain bearing their likeness and did a little dance onstage before sauntering down the steps to the court amid all sorts of pyrotechnics.
Some of the players got into it more than others. Women’s player Claire Till stayed onstage dancing for quite a while before hitting the steps. Darius Stokes came out wearing some fake dreads and a hat.
After the players were introduced, the respective head coaches came out.
Women’s coach Lisa Bluder was carried out by her players.
After the men’s team was introduced, Aaron White and Devyn Marble rolled a big orange basketball onto the court. Beach balls that looked like basketballs fell from the ceiling as McCaffery emerged from the giant ball in the middle of the floor.
More, bigger fireworks followed and the coaches took a few minutes to talk about their teams.
The men’s team intros were followed by a dunk contest, which Olaseni easily won with a Jordanesque, court-length run and take-off-at-the-foul-line slam. Actually, they never even announced who won.
“I can’t believe it,’’ Olaseni said. “I clearly won. I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to send out a tweet and hopefully somebody important will tell me I won.’’
After all that, they did go ahead and play a little bit of basketball. At least, it sort of resembled basketball.
It was entertaining, whatever it was.
“I think our fans have identified with this group and they want to come see them play,’’ McCaffery said when asked about the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. “They appreciate how they compete and appreciate their talent. We’re not perfect but we have a good team and everybody wants to see how far they’re going to go.’’