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Inside The Bloggers Unwashed, Unshaven, Studio: Iowa Hoops Edition

McCaffery Freak Out (via pulling69)

Apologies for getting this up so close to game time, but it was too good not to get up. RossWB over at Black Heart Gold Pants was kind enough to participate in the latest installment of ITBUUS, for today's clash between Penn State and Iowa.

BSD: Year 2 of Frandemonium (i.e. Iowa Coach Fran McCaffrey) has the Hawkeyes flirting with a .500 record in Big Ten play halfway through the conference schedule. Has this met or exceeded Iowa fans' expectations? What has been the key to Iowa's turnaround thus far?

RossWB: The non-conference schedule didn't quite meet expectations. Given that Iowa had such a weak slate of non-conference opponents, not many people really expected them to lose 5 games before B1G play (especially to the likes of Campbell). Conversely, not many people expected them to be 4-6 at this point in the B1G season, either. The home loss to Nebraska a week ago was disappointing and the blowout nature of the losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Indiana was disappointing, but there have been some great wins, too, like dominating a good Michigan team, sweeping Minnesota, and beating Wisconsin in the impregnable Kohl Center. So things have been pretty rocky, but in general I'd say things are trending slightly ahead of expectations, especially given the strength of the league.

The biggest reason for Iowa's turnaround has been the breakout play of Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White. Matt Gatens has been a steady performer for most of the season, but Marble has really started to emerge as a very good player. He's second on the team in points (11.4) and assists (3.3) and he's displayed a really impressive knack for making clutch plays: he made key jumpers to preserve the win at Wisconsin and came up big in the win over Minnesota the other night, too. White has so far managed to avoid the freshman wall and he's third on the team in points (9.7) and rebounds (3.8). They've really given Iowa a big spark.

BSD: Speaking of Fran: Anger issues aside, the guy sure knows how to pile-drive a chair (see video above). Tell us how much the idea of him and Bob Knight in a chair-throwing contest on BTN announced by Gus Johnson excites you.

RossWB: On a scale of 1-10, my excitement for that idea is a solid 11, especially since I think Fran would crush Knight. Chair-throwing is a young man's game and Bobby's gotten old and soft at ESPN. Fran would try to launch a chair into orbit.

BSD: What does the future hold for Hawkeye basketball? Are there any big-time recruits on their way to Iowa City?

RossWB: The future is looking very good for Iowa basketball for the first time in quite a while. They have a top 20 class coming in next year, highlighted by a pair of local stars who are both ESPN 100 recruits. Adam Woodbury is a 4* C who should be a godsend for a team that currently has a gaping hole in the post and Mike Gesell is a 4* PG who should take control of the offense. They also have a pair of unheralded backcourt recruits Patrick Ingram and Anthony Clemmons) who should provide a much-needed injection of athleticism. Couple that class with the continued development of guys like Marble and White and you have the makings of a very promising team.

BSD: Name one thing that PSU fans should fear about this Iowa team. Also, name one thing about PSU that you feel Iowa fans should fear.

RossWB: This Iowa team is so inconsistent that it's hard to know what opposing fans should really fear about them... but I'd probably say their transition game. They might have the best transition offense of any team in the Big Ten and they love to run and push the tempo; if Penn State finds themselves in a track meet tomorrow, that's probably playing right into Iowa's hands. As for what Iowa fans should fear... I think the obvious answer is Tim Frazier because he's by far PSU's best player (team leader in points, rebounds, assists, and steals) and someone that Iowa will have a hard time slowing down (especially since one of our best defenders, Eric May, has been battling back problems lately). But I'm also concerned about PSU's rebounding; it's one of the few things they appear to be not-awful at and also an area where Iowa has struggled mightily at times this year. If Iowa can't keep PSU off the glass, PSU could get enough second chance opportunities to keep things tight.

BSD: Last but not least, give us your take on how you see this Saturday's contest playing out.

RossWB: It's so hard to make a prediction in this game because this Iowa team has been so schizophrenic. They can look breathtakingly good at times and stupefyingly bad at other times -- and sometimes in the same game (like, for instance, the Minnesota win the other night, where they paired a decent beginning and a brilliant ending with a wretched middle. And after they lost at home to Nebraska last week, my faith in them beating "bad" teams at home has been shaken. So I'm really not sure: If they play poor defense and given Penn State opportunities (and, more importantly, if Penn State is able to take advantage of those opportunities and drain the open looks they'll no doubt have), PSU can absolutely steal this game. But I think Iowa builds off the momentum of their late rally against Minnesota (and the excitement over the celebrations for the 1986-1987 team, an Elite Eight team that's being honored at the game Saturday) to get a second-straight win. I think they come out hot and open up a lead, then go cold and let Penn State make things interesting, before finally pulling away in the second half and winning by 8-10 points. I'll go with Iowa 68, Penn State 60, with Roy Marble leading the way with a very strong all-around game.