IOWA CITY — We knew coming in what Saturday's Savannah State-Iowa men’s basketball game was and wasn’t.
What was it? A money game. A home box office for Iowa, a guaranteed payday to show up and take a beating for the Tigers of Savannah.
What wasn’t it? Sport. The 110-64 final score — not much different from the Hawkeyes’ 116-84 win over the same school here two years ago — was an exhibition, not a competition.
You had a Big Ten team at home ranked 21st in the nation with a 9-2 record. You had a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team playing its ninth-straight game away from home, 347th in the Division I Sagarin Ratings with a 3-10 record.
Iowa wasn’t going to get pushed by these Tigers, who surrendered 90 points in the first half the week before at South Dakota State, that ranks last nationally in points allowed per game.
Hundreds of games are played like this each season. The big guys use them to get the number of home gates they want and grab a few breathers to pad their won-lost records. The little guys use the checks they collect on their barnstorming tours to fund their programs.
“I coached at one institution where we were totally reliant on guarantee income,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Saturday. “That’s how you pay your bills.”
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Horace Broadnax has been Savannah State’s coach since 2005. His team does compete, once it’s within its own conference. The Tigers shared the MEAC regular-season title last season with a 12-4 mark. And went 15-17 overall.
Broadnax lived on the big-guy side as a player. He was on Georgetown’s 1984 national-championship team. This isn’t that.
“It is what it is,” Broadnax said. “Our objective is to try to get our conference (NCAA tournament) bid. We’re a one-bid conference, probably 31 or 32 out of 32 conferences on the power scale.
“This type of game today, we understand. We’ve still got to try to execute.”
But the Tigers were behind 19-7 at the first media timeout, and it didn’t get better.
“We don’t have that type of pressure in practice,” Broadnax said. “They’re Big Ten for a reason. The air smells a little different out there.
“We don’t see anybody as big, as strong, as basketball-IQ as No. 25 (Iowa’s Tyler Cook). He’s a beast down there, a big body. You’re looking at my guys, we have to stay in the weight room 24 hours a day to be that.”
The Tigers had eight players available for this game. None weighed over 208 pounds. When you’ve played nine games on the road since Nov. 16, nutrition and conditioning suffer. It can’t be great for academics, either.
“We’ll get back in a routine when we get home,” said Broadnax, and home will look good.
Iowa’s next game is Dec. 29, against Bryant University. The Bulldogs of Smithfield, R.I., are 3-7. They have lost by 24 points to Brown and 42 points to Yale. They were 340th in the Sagarins on Saturday morning.
We know what that will be and what it won’t, too.
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