Iowa men’s basketball notebook | Hawkeye seniors prepare for No. 12 Illinois, discuss future aspirations

Patrick McCaffery and Ben Krikke will look for revenge against the Illini on Sunday, but the pair also have their eyes on professional careers.

When the Iowa men’s basketball team takes on No. 12 Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday evening, Hawkeye seniors Ben Krikke, Tony Perkins, and Patrick McCaffery will be honored for their collegiate careers. But after the opening ceremonies, the trio will have their sights set on revenge against the Illini, as well as yet another Quad 1 victory to boost the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

In mirror fashion to the last time the two squads faced off, Iowa has notched consecutive victories heading into the contest while Illinois is rebounding from a close loss. This time around, the Hawkeyes hope to thrive in the clutch by securing crucial defensive stops.

On Feb. 24 in Champaign, Iowa dropped a 10-point decision to Illinois, as head coach Brad Underwood’s unit dominated the Hawkeyes in the final 5:33 of play, doubling Iowa’s point total, 20-10.

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“We need to be connected for a full 40 [minutes],” Krikke said of Iowa’s defensive effort. “I think we did a decent job for the majority of the game [against Illinois], and then there was a lull period where we let things slip away … We just lost confidence and it snowballed.”

Fourth-year big man Coleman Hawkins scored half of Illinois’ final 20 points that day on his way to a career-high 30 points. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery called the 6-foot-10, 225-pounder a “matchup problem,” especially due to his prowess from behind the arc. Hawkins is shooting at a 39.5 percent clip from three-point land this season.

Illinois’ leading scorer, Terrance Shannon, was a shell of himself against Iowa, collecting 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting. On the season, the projected NBA first-round pick is averaging 21.5 points per game. But that diminished performance against the Hawkeyes doesn’t make Shannon less of a threat.

“He’s got to be the top guy or top two guys in terms of effectiveness in transition,” McCaffery said of the Illini guard. “You’ve got to get back in transition, and it’s not just the guy who’s guarding him, it’s everybody. You’ve got to get back because of his incredible speed.”

Heading into that February face-off against Illinois, guard Josh Dix had scored 20 points or more just once in his collegiate career. Since then, the second-year from Council Bluffs, Iowa, has recorded three straight 20-point performances.


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“He’s been in the gym since day one and just continues to work each and every day,” Krikke said of his teammate. “So it’s a testament to his hard work and determination.”

But it’s not just Dix who’s been an offensive weapon for the Hawkeyes this season, as six different players have totaled at least 20 points in a game this season.

“That’s mainly because guys like Keegan [Murray], Kris [Murray] and Luka [Garza] we’re shooting all the shots and it was hard for anyone else to get to 20,” Patrick McCaffery said with a laugh. “We move and share the ball, a lot of continuity on offense. We play together, and our free-flowing offense is hard for other teams.”

Seniors reflect

At media availability on Wednesday, only Krikke and Patrick McCaffery addressed reporters, as Perkins was out with an illness. Krikke, who transferred from Valparaiso over the offseason, will have his second Senior Day after partaking in the ceremony last season with the Beacons.

While he admitted it would be a little weird to repeat the same process in a different arena, Krikke maintained he was grateful for his one season in Iowa City. The senior said it felt like only yesterday when he was getting to know his new Hawkeye teammates as the team played a series of games in Europe in the summer.

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Krikke also explained how playing with Valparasio didn’t include much postseason experience but rather frequent first-round exits in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Now representing the Big Ten, the senior hopes his one last ride can include a trip to the Big Dance.

“It’s the ultimate goal,” Krikke said. “It’s been a dream since I can’t even remember. It would be amazing, but we have to do everything we can to get there.”

After his collegiate career concludes, the 6-foot-9 forward from Alberta, Canada, plans on taking his talents to the professional level in “whatever capacity that looks like” but added he would make the choice at the end of the season. Krikke isn’t included in Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman’s NBA mock draft.

Patrick McCaffery will also look back at a unique career on Sunday. When his father took the Iowa job on March 28, 2010, Patrick was 10-years-old. Since then, he has spent his days in and around Carver-Hawkeye Arena and starred at Iowa City West High School before committing to the Hawkeyes.

Donning the Black and Gold, Patrick McCaffery got the opportunity to play alongside his older brother, Connor, all while Fran coached from the sidelines. Patrick said he was “forever grateful” that he opted into this family dynamic, in spite of the struggles that accompanied the situation.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of B.S. that comes with playing with your dad, it’s not always going to be perfect,” he said. “You know, when we lose, Connor and I would take the brunt of what happened. That’s just the nature of what happens in this business. We know what we signed up for.”

“But overall, I wouldn’t trade the experiences or relationships I have for anything, no matter the ups or downs we had to deal with,” he continued.

Similar to Krikke, Patrick McCaffery isn’t included in Wasseramn’s mock draft, but he still has one more year of eligibility remaining. When asked if he would elect to stay another season, the forward immediately said no but then clarified that moving on is his plan as of now.

“Anything is possible this day and age … After the season’s over, I get a lot of time so there’s no reason to rush into anything,” he said. “I said no right away, I probably shouldn’t have, but it just depends on the circumstances.”

As for potentially playing out his final year of eligibility at a different school, Patrick McCaffery said making the move would be hard and something he would have to ponder further.

The 6-foot-9 senior said he still wants to take his game to the next level, whether that be domestically or overseas, but he also left the door open for following in the footsteps of his dad.

Patrick McCaffery called coaching the “next logical step” for him after his playing career wraps up, adding that the profession is his “first instinct.” But if he does opt for that route, he’ll have some explaining to do to his mother, Margaret, who Patrick said does not approve of him joining the family business.

“I still have to talk with her about that,” he said with a smile.


Bubble watch

According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s March 5 edition of Bracketology, Iowa is listed as the fourth team in his “First Four Out” category, meaning the Hawkeyes need not only a win on Sunday but also some help from other teams in order to make the NCAA Tournament.

The squad’s listed ahead of Iowa in the “First Four Out” group are St. John’s, Utah, and Providence. The teams within Lunardi’s “Last Four In” include Seton Hall, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wake Forest.

Here’s what the seven teams ahead of Iowa have done this week and their remaining schedules:

Note that a Quad 1 win involves either defeating a top-30 NET team at home or a top-75 NET team on the road. Iowa has the chance to earn its fourth Quad 1 victory against Illinois (16 NET) on Sunday.

Seton Hall (63 NET ranking)

Defeated Villanova (29 NET) at home

Home game against DePaul (321 NET) on March 9

New Mexico (26 NET)

Beat Fresno State (210 NET)

Takes on No. 22 Utah State (32 NET) on the road on March 9

Virginia (50 NET)

Hosts Georgia Tech (125 NET) on March 9

Wake Forest (42 NET)

Lost to Georgia Tech on March 5

Home battle against Clemson (24 NET) on March 9

St. John’s (36 NET)

Took down DePaul, 104-77, on March 5

Hosts Georgetown (204 NET) on March 9

Utah (46 NET)

Takes on Oregon State (160 NET) on the road on March 7

Away at Oregon (66 NET) on March 9

Providence (61 NET)

Defeated Georgetown, 71-58, on March 5

Hosts No. 2 UConn (3 NET) on March 9

 



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