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Iowa men’s basketball proving they should be a lot of fun in 2023-24

Teams within Iowa athletics are not typically unknown quantities. Think of all of the sports in Iowa City.

You have the football program, which has stayed the same for years now. Their style of play and mentality under head coach Kirk Ferentz has been unwavering, almost to a fault in the new landscape of college football.

Both women’s basketball and wrestling are strong contenders for both Big Ten and national championship glory. As long as Caitlin Clark is wearing the black and gold and Iowa wrestling is, well, Iowa wrestling, that’s not going to change this year.

For the men’s basketball team, though, a lot was unknown. Here is a team that was very hit-and-miss last season. They showed some life in the second half of the season, but the Hawkeyes bowed out of both the conference and NCAA Tournaments in the first round.

Iowa lost multiple key figures over the offseason as well, and wasn’t heavy on a ton of known quantities waiting to replace them. No Luka Garza-type waiting in the wings and no Murray brothers left in Iowa City.

Iowa men’s basketball was a massive mystery ahead of the season, sort of the forgotten program given the success around them at the current moment. The Hawkeyes were picked to finish ninth in the preseason Big Ten media poll and most of the excitement was placed on what was to come with a fantastic freshman class, rather than on the present moment. This 2023-24 season was giving the vibe of an ultimate transitional “wait ’til next year” type of season.

Ladies and gentlemen of Hawkeye Nation. Do not wait until next year to start buying into this program. While the ultimate postseason success may still be yet to come in the future once the team matures a bit, they are still very much worth your time. At least, that’s what Iowa head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery and his squad have declared through three games into this year.

Though the Hawkeyes did lose to No. 7 Creighton last night, the performance was commendable to say the least. From graduate transfer Ben Krikke looking as good as advertised to freshmen Ladji Dembele and Owen Freeman showing some fantastic flashes off the bench, there was a lot to like about the Hawkeyes last night.

Against a team who can easily make a run in March, in a game that easily could have resulted in a blowout, the young Hawkeyes fought until the very end. They gave the Bluejays everything that they could handle, and while it didn’t end the way Iowa wanted it to, it’s just the performance you want to see early on.

In comparison to last season, the Hawkeyes seemed lethargic in these types of situations. They would seem dead in the water in bigger games, and it was frustrating because you saw the talent they had. You saw what they were capable of at times during the season.

While it’s very early in this 2023-24 season, it feels different this year. This team feels like the scrappy underdog who’s going to go out there and make you earn your W.

I’m not going to make a grand statement and say that they’re going to win the Big Ten and go on a run. That would be ridiculous after three games.

However, this team has showed me so far that they are very much deserving of your attention. They aren’t just the “other” basketball team, lost in the Caitlin Clark fever. Fran McCaffery is building something in Iowa City. Jump on the bandwagon early, while there’s still plenty of seats.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire