Iowa has its sights set on bouncing back from a disappointing 2017-18 season, starting with its opener Thursday night against visiting Missouri-Kansas City in a 2K Empire Classic preliminary game benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project. The Hawkeyes finished tied for next-to-last in the Big Ten last season but return all five starters from that team.
Coach Fran McCaffery begins his ninth season at Iowa with a team that brings back 90.5 percent of minutes played a year ago, fourth most in the country. The Hawkeyes also are one of four teams in Division I with its top five scorers returning from last season who were also starters. Iowa's struggles last season stemmed from its lack of leadership, inability to play defense (allowing 78.7 points per game) and turnovers (13.4). Scoring wasn't a problem (79.7 points) for last year's team and shouldn't be an issue again this season.
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ABOUT IOWA (2017-18: 14-19): The Hawkeyes went into last season with high hopes but could never find their mojo after losing six of seven games in November and December after starting 3-0, but a're hoping that experiencing the hard knocks will pay off this year. The top returnees are 6-foot-9 junior forward Tyler Cook, who flirted with declaring for the NBA Draft after last season, and 6-1 junior guard Jordan Bohannon, a heady player who led the team in assists and 3-point shooting each of the past two seasons. Iowa crushed Guilford College 103-46 in an exhibition game Sunday while Bohannon sat out with a painful bone bruise that could sideline him against UMKC.
ABOUT UMKC (0-1): After posting a 10-22 record last season, the Kangaroos began their 2018-19 schedule Tuesday night with a 76-45 loss on the road to 2018 Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago. UMKC was outmanned, trailing 40-18 at halftime and shooting 29.8 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from the free throw line in the game. Only two Kangaroos players -- sophomore guard Brandon McKissic (15 points), who started 20 games as a freshman last season, and junior guard Rob Whitfield (11), who played at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in 2017-18 -- scored in double figures.
1. Freshman Joe Wieskamp, one of Iowa's most heralded recruits, led all scorers with 16 points in the exhibition victory over Guilford.
2. Cook came close to a triple-double in the exhibition with 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
3. UMBC assistant coach Josh Sash is the brother of former Iowa and New York Giants defensive back Tyler Sash, who died in 2015.
PREDICTION: Iowa 86, UMKC 68 Bet Now
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|Marvin Nesbitt Jr.|