Team preview: Iowa
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)COACH AND PROGRAM
Iowa coach Steve Alford repeated the same mantra for anyone who would listen. He doesn't discuss hypothetical situations.
That was Alfordspeak for stop asking.
He told the media time and time again last season that he was not concerned with the shakeup occurring at his alma mater in Bloomington, Ind. He tried his best to convince all of his sincerity when he said he planned on coaching at Iowa.
The questions remained such a constant, during one teleconference Alford read from a prepared statement every time an inquiry was made to Indiana.
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they had a veteran squad that wasn't easily distracted by the Alford to Indiana scuttlebutt.
"I don't think it affected us," Alford said. "We had an outstanding season. We won 25 games, the second most in school history. We were the only team in school history to go undefeated at Carver[-Hawkeye Arena]. The guys did a tremendous job."
The uneasy questions and testy press conferences can stop. With Kelvin Sampson replacing Mike Davis at Indiana, the speculation that Alford would leave for his alma mater has come to an end. For now.
"I've tried to talk about my commitment for a long time to the University of Iowa," Alford said. "It's nice that now, hopefully, people will start believing me a little bit."
Alford led the Hawkeyes to their second Big Ten Tournament title under his guidance and made it to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year.
Outgoing athletic director Bob Bowlsby, who accepted the same position at Stanford, signed Alford to a one-year contract extension in June. Iowa's new athletic director Gary Barta reportedly was set to open new extension talks to lengthen his deal past 2010.
With the off-court madness seemingly settled, Alford faces a substantial challenge with his team on the floor. The Hawkeyes lost four of their top six players from last season, including leading scorer and rebounder Greg Brunner. The undersized power forward finished as the school's all-time leading rebounder.
Point guard Jeff Horner was the all-time leader in assists. Center Erek Hansen was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year and forward Doug Thomas won the league's first ever Sixth Man of the Year award.
"We're going to miss them a lot," Alford said. "They were great leaders and that experience and leadership role is going to be something we have to fill pretty quickly."
It certainly would help Iowa if it maintains the same home court advantage it built last season. The Hawkeyes went undefeated at home (17-0) for the first time since 1966.
Their 18 straight home win streak is the third longest in the nation entering this season.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena will truly be Alford's home without any overtures of Indiana calling him back. And that, Alford said, is a very good thing.
"It's going to be nice going through a season where we don't have to hear that kind of stuff," Alford said. "It's been going on for a long time."
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