116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The spot on the schedule isn’t ideal, but the game was too appealing for the Iowa men’s basketball program to pass up.
The Hawkeyes play No. 15 Duke at 8:30 (CT) Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden, less than 48 hours before they host No. 20 Iowa State.
“We looked at the fact that we had to play Iowa State on Thursday,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “(Duke) was going to be a Tuesday night game. Should we do it?
“And I just felt pretty strongly that was a great opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden, play a team like Duke, play in an event like that for our program, for our players, to help get us ready for the Big Ten schedule.
“It would have been easy to say no, play somebody we felt pretty strongly we would beat, and stay rested for the Iowa State game. But opportunities like this, I think you have to take advantage of.”
The pros outweigh the cons by a lot. The game is on ESPN, Dick Vitale’s working it, and the opponent is the No. 1 marquee name in men’s basketball over the last three decades.
Not to mention the fact a victory would surely count for plenty with the NCAA tournament’s selection committee come March.
So what’s Iowa facing from this Duke club? A lot of youth and height. Oh, and talent.
Four freshmen start for first-year head coach Jon Scheyer, who replaced Mike Krzyzewski after his 42 seasons there, which included five national championships.
In contrast, Iowa’s starting five last game consisted of a a fifth-year senior, a fourth-year junior, a junior who is four seasons out of high school, and a pair of third-year juniors. One of the top subs is a sixth-year senior.
Duke’s starting front line stands 7-foot-1, 7-0 and 6-8. The 7-0 fellow is freshman forward Kyle “Flip” Filipowski, who is averaging team-highs in scoring (15.2 points per game) and rebounding (9.3).
“We know Filipowski well,” McCaffery said. “He’s a lottery pick. We recruited him hard. He visited here.”
Duke’s perimeter shooting has been nothing special, but it has almost 10 more rebounds per contest than its foes and is holding them to 58.7 points a game.
The Blue Devils (8-2) lost 75-56 to Purdue in Portland, Ore., before beating Ohio State 81-72 at home last Wednesday.
“It’s a talented team,” said McCaffery. “They have a lot of size. They have depth. They have athleticism. It will be a very difficult challenge for us, but one we’re excited for.”
Iowa (6-1) has been off since it beat Georgia Tech 81-65 a week ago in Iowa City behind the 31 points and 20 rebounds of junior forward Kris Murray, who has the chance to make this a showcase game.
The Hawkeyes are 2-0 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams this season, with wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech. If the Hawkeyes make it a three-game sweep Tuesday, it would be the 500th win for McCaffery as a head coach. He has 248 victories at Iowa.
When McCaffery does get No. 500, “I won’t get sentimental about it,” he said. “We’ll be on to the next, whenever that comes. I’ll just keep grinding.”
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