Sophomore 7-footer Adam Woodbury was noticeably more comfortable and productive in Sunday’s exhibition game with Augustana, and the Hawkeyes’ success this season could parallel his continued development.
Woodbury started all 38 games last season, averaging a so-so 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. On Sunday, he had 10 points and 11 rebounds. He and backup Gabe Olaseni combined for 18 points and 19 rebounds in 36 minutes of floor time.
This was a problem area for the Hawkeyes all of last season. They shot just 30.5 percent from three-point range (28.4 in Big Ten games).
The addition of freshman Peter Jok and transfer Jarrod Uthoff should help, and coach Fran McCaffery insists that many of his veterans have improved in this area, but the Hawkeyes were only 2-for-18 from long range against Augustana.
A foot injury suffered Wednesday in practice by junior Josh Oglesby, who is out indefinitely, could take one more shooter out of the mix.
The Hawkeyes should have no problem waltzing through their non-conference schedule with three or fewer losses. Other than a home game with Notre Dame, a road game at Iowa State and the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, there isn’t much there to challenge them.
But the Big Ten schedule is considerably tougher than it was a year ago. Last year, the Hawkeyes only had to play Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois once each. Three of those teams are ranked in the national preseason top 10 entering this season. Just by playing each of those teams twice, the back half of the schedule becomes much more difficult.
This year’s one-plays: Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska and Penn State. Those teams finished first, ninth, 10th and 12th in the league last season.
Senior Devyn Marble, who has been thrust into the point guard position in mid-season the past few years, will start out in that role and seems to have embraced the challenge.
The Hawkeyes probably could have success with either Mike Gesell or Anthony Clemmons, but to have a truly special season they need Marble to prosper at the point.
Iowa lost seven Big Ten games by four points or less last season, four of those against ranked teams. If just one of those games had gone the other way, the Hawkeyes probably would have been in the NCAA Tournament.
Having Marble entrenched as the point guard and go-to guy at crunch time should help.