Fran McCaffery said his Iowa men’s basketball team tries to take “a professional approach” to the stretch of games it is playing through.
Which makes sense, because it’s a pro basketball-type of itinerary.
The Hawkeyes played games in Las Vegas last Thursday and Friday nights, then flew home after the second one and got back to Iowa at 2 a.m., Central time, Saturday. They were scheduled to fly to Syracuse, N.Y., Monday at 2 p.m. for a game there Tuesday night.
They’ll fly back to Iowa after the game, then fly to Michigan Thursday afternoon for a game against the Wolverines Friday night.
“We said from the beginning, it’s a difficult stretch for us,” McCaffery said Monday morning. “But that’s what the game is. You’re going to play two big games early. You’re going to play in an MTE (multi-team event) somewhere, you’re going to play in the ACC Challenge.
“It happened we went to Vegas and then we had a road game, then another road game right after it.”
Iowa (5-2) defeated Texas Tech and lost to San Diego State in the Las Vegas Invitational. Now it’s on to Syracuse for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game Tuesday at 6 p.m. (Central time, ESPN2) before the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten-opener at Michigan Friday night.
That’s four tough games in nine days in three states, none of them Iowa.
“It’s not something we really even talk about, to be honest with you,” McCaffery said. “It’s just the next game on the schedule. How do we plan practice, how much film do we watch, how long do we stay on the floor, when do we leave?”
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The atmosphere changes almost as much as one can change in college ball. Iowa goes from playing before 4,855 people Friday in a smallish arena attached to a Las Vegas casino to over 20,000 partisan Orange fans in their on-campus stadium in upstate New York.
Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim need no introduction to basketball fans. He is in his 44th season as the Orange’s coach, having won the 2003 national championship and guided four other teams to the Final Four, including his 2016 squad.
Syracuse (4-3) is in the midst of a tough patch of games itself. It just got whipped twice in a row, losing 86-72 to Oklahoma State and 85-64 to Penn State in the NIT Preseason Tip-Off in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I thought this team would take a while,” Boeheim said after the Penn State game. “It’s going to take longer. I thought it would take 10 or 12 games. I don’t know if it will be done in 15 or 20 games.”
It’s not a deep or veteran team. Only six players played more than nine minutes against Penn State. The starting guards are freshman Joseph Girard III and sophomore Buddy Boeheim. Both are shooting 37 percent from the field.
However, it’s Syracuse and the Carrier Dome, and the Orange’s perennial 2-3 zone defense.
“It’s a challenge for your team to attack,” McCaffery said. “It’s a unique place to play.
“We’ve got to be ready to compete.”
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