When Steve Alford took the head coaching position at University of Iowa after four successful seasons with Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State), one would have thought that Bloomington, Ind. was set of fire. Alford was the prototypical Hoosier: farm-bred, barn basket three-point shooter with a knack for hitting clutch buckets under duress. It was his leadership that took coach Bobby Knight and the 1987 Indiana basketball team to the national championship where Keith Smart hit a last second ten-footer to bring it home versus Syracuse.
Most Hoosier fans who followed the game closely saw what they thought to be a natural succession in the history of Indiana’s storied program: Alford was moving up the ranks as a coach to be groomed as heir-apparent to the General himself.
Then the unexpected happened. Steve Alford got hot too early as a head coach, and he took his mid-major Southwest Missouri State to the Sweet 16 in 1999. They lost to Duke 78–61.
At the same time, Iowa was looking for a fresh start after coaching legend Tom Davis) failed to produce a substantial winner during the 1990s. The job was offered to a young Alford and before you could say “Jess Settles”, a new era of Iowa basketball was born.
Expectations were very high for Alford, as he had taken a relatively unknown team like Southwest Missouri State further in the tournament than any Iowa team had in years.
The results, however, were generally less than spectacular. Despite winning conference tournaments in 2001 and 2006, the Iowa teams, led by Alford, never materialized in the way that Hawkeye nation thought they should have in the years he was at the helm.
After years of failing to make post-season play, one of Gary Barta’s first major moves in 2007, as the newly hired athletic director, was decided for him. Alford left the head coaching position at Iowa for the loudest place to play in the country: “The Pit” at University of New Mexico.
After a fairly short search, Barta decided on National Coach of the Year winner Todd Lickliter who had just led the Butler Bulldogs from the Horizon League to the Sweet 16.
Bottom line: The Hawkeyes have a serious amount of rebuilding to do. They are off to an incredibly underwhelming start at 6–6, and the outlook for their post-season play is less than promising. What was once a powerhouse team in the mid-eighties has turned into a bottom feeder, often squeaking out victories against upper level teams only to lose the next time out against a very beatable foe.
If the Hawkeyes plan on making a trip to the National Invitation Tournament this year, they will need to come out swinging in Big Ten play and go at least 6–3 for the first half of the conference season.
The Hawkeyes’ first four games are as follows: vs. Indiana, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and, vs. Michigan State.
Let’s see what’s on tap for for December 17–23
Last week’s record: 12–1
Season record: 57–13
MONDAY DECEMBER 17
Texas Southern 62
Western Carolina 67
TUESDAY DECEMBER 18
Ohio State 68
Cleveland State 54
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19
Michigan State 87
San Jose State 73
THURSDAY DECEMBER 20
Miami (OH) 73
FRIDAY DECEMBER 21
Coppin State 64
Ohio State 59
Michigan State 72
Santa Clara 63
Iowa State 59
SUNDAY DECEMBER 23
Penn State 72
Alabama / Missouri State TBA