Is It Time For a Change For The Iowa Men’s Basketball Team?
Iowa men's basketball fans really don't expect much. They knew that this year's team wasn't going to make the Final Four. But is a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament too much to ask? Fran McCaffery and his staff in Iowa City run a pretty good men's basketball program. But greater coaches, hello Dr. Tom Davis, have been run out of town for far lesser sins. Is it time for a change in Iowa City?
You can't deny that Fran McCaffery knows how to get his teams to the NCAA Tournament. He took Lehigh in 1988, UNC Greensboro in 2001, and Siena in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Since arriving in Iowa City, Fran has guided the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament 8 times. The event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID. But one thing that McCaffery has yet to do is lead a team past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Sweet Sixteen. That used to be the knock on another coach in Iowa City too, remember?
Davis led Iowa to 9 NCAA Tournament appearances including an Elite Eight spot in 1987. And yes, while those were George Raveling's recruits Davis did guide them far into the tournament. Iowa made the Sweet Sixteen in 1988 and suddenly Hawkeye fans thought that a deep post-season run was going to be the norm. And while Davis would lead the Hawkeyes to the tournament in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 1999 Iowa wouldn't make another Sweet Sixteen appearance until Davis' final year with Iowa in 1999. Fans wanted a coach who could make a deeper NCAA Tournament run. Well, guess what Iowa fans...we have yet to find one.
And it isn't as if Iowa hasn't had some great players under McCaffery. How about Luka Garza? Two-time Big Ten player of the year. Two-time first-team All-American. Iowa's all-time leading scorer. Keegan Murray stepped in after Garza was drafted into the NBA. All he did was earn First Team All-American honors, the third straight year an Iowa Hawkeye had earned such an honor. Another Murray stepped up this past season. Kris Murray earned third-team All-American honors and also appears headed to the NBA. So why didn't any of these stars lead Iowa to at least a Sweet Sixteen appearance?
A quarter century since Iowa's last Sweet Sixteen. Clearly, something needs to change. I'm not calling for Fran McCaffery's job. It would be too easy to do so after another frustrating Iowa loss. But Iowa basketball fans deserve more. Names like Lute Olson and Tom Davis still land with fans because while there may have been uneven seasons, there were also some amazing high points. Fran McCaffery doesn't have to take Iowa to a Final Four. But is it too much to ask for the second weekend of the tournament?