Iowa’s non-conference schedule was released on Thursday, and it sure is a doozy.
The Hawkeyes, who will replace four starters from last season’s 22-11 team, have a daunting slate ahead of them to begin the 2016-17 season. Iowa will face at least three 2016 NCAA Tournament teams during the first month and a half of the season and only one of those contests will be a true home game.
The good news is Iowa will definitely be battle tested for Big Ten play. The bad news is a team replacing a large chunk of last season’s talent could struggle mightily against this rigorous schedule.
Iowa’s season doesn’t tip off on a difficult note. After an exhibition with Regis University Nov. 4, the Hawkeyes officially begin the regular season against Kennesaw State at home on Nov. 11.
The Hawkeyes host Seton Hall in Iowa City six days later as part of the annual Gavitt Games between the Big Ten and Big East conferences. The Pirates went on a magical run to win the Big East tournament, earning their first NCAA tournament bid since 2006.
Iowa then hosts UT-Rio Grande Valley before heading to Destin, Fla., for its toughest stretch of the non-conference season in the Emerald Coast Classic.
The Hawkeyes begin the tournament against Virginia the day after Thanksgiving. The Cavaliers went 29-8 and made it all the way to the Elite Eight last season before having its season ended by tournament Cinderella, Syracuse.
It doesn’t get much easier after that in the Sunshine State. Depending on Iowa’s result, it will square off with either Providence or Memphis in the championship or third place game. The Friars advanced to the Round of 32 in last year’s NCAA tournament, while the Tigers missed out on March Madness for the second-consecutive season.
But wait, that’s not all. The Hawkeyes get two days off following the Emerald Coast Classic before traveling to South Bend, Ind., for a battle with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish made it back to the Elite Eight for the second straight season and possess one of the best home-court advantages in the country.
Iowa goes back to Iowa City for matchups against Omaha and Stetson before its annual grudge match against Iowa State. The Cyclones should be in store for another good season after making it to the Sweet 16 last year.
Following its annual rivalry game, Iowa will walk into another in-state battle with Northern Iowa. The Missouri Valley tournament champions will be looking to make a statement and upset their big brothers. This could be viewed as a trap game for the Hawkeyes, who will have nine days to prepare for the neutral site contest in Des Moines.
Iowa’s schedule softens up after the pair of in-state rivalry games. The Hawkeyes wrap up the non-conference slate with home contests against North Dakota and Delaware State.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery will be looking to rebuild the roster on the fly without leading scorer Jared Uthoff and four of the team’s top five scorers from a year ago. This season’s demanding non-conference schedule might tell us everything we need to know about what Iowa will be during the 2016-17 season.