By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – With no disrespect to the Iowa men’s basketball team’s first two opponents, the level of competition will improve significantly in game three.
The 2-0 Hawkeyes will face the daunting task of trying to win on No. 8 Creighton’s home floor Tuesday night in Omaha, Nebraska.
Greg McDermott has built Creighton into a national power and part of what makes his team so hard to beat at home is the loyal fan support.
“He obviously knows what he’s doing and he’s really good,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of McDermott. “He’s been good for a long time. “The fan base is engaged. They get 17,000 every night. They’re in a great league. A very competitive basketball league with great interest, a great TV package. And he’s got a terrific staff.
“His culture is exactly what you want if you’re in a place that aspires to be great like Creighton.”
Creighton reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last season and has won at least 20 games in eight consecutive seasons under McDermott, who previously was the head coach for Iowa State and for Northern Iowa where he played basketball.
And while McDermott failed to build Iowa State into a consistent winner, he has redeemed himself with his long-standing success at Creighton.
McDermott came to Creighton in 2010, which is the same year Fran McCaffery replaced Todd Lickliter as the Iowa head coach.
Junior guard Trey Alexander leads a deep and talented Creighton squad as he scored 21 and 20 points in lopsided wins over Florida A&M and North Dakota State in the first two games.
Fran McCaffery will counter with an Iowa roster that has six newcomers including four freshmen.
McCaffery said Monday on a zoom call that he expects all four freshmen to play in Tuesday’s game, which is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
Iowa’s four freshmen are guards Brock Harding and Pryce Sandfort and forwards Owen Freeman and Ladji Dembele.
The 6-foot-10 Freeman was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday.
“You just want them to play the game the right way,” McCaffery said of his freshmen. “Do what they do. Stay with the game plan. I think that young group is a resilient group. They have to understand that it’s OK to make a mistake. Come back from it.
“I’m going to play them all a fair amount. I’m kind of excited for them.”
Iowa also has added 6-9 forwards Ben Krikke and Even Brauns from the transfer portal.
Krikke came from Valparaiso where he led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring last season, while Brauns, a graduate of Iowa City West High School, played for Belmont.
Iowa’s newcomers have accounted for 83 points (40.9 percent of scoring) in the first two games. Krikke is third on the team in scoring (15.5 points/6.0 rebounds), while freshman forward Owen Freeman is averaging 11 points. Freshman guard Brock Harding has 14 assists in 25 minutes.
Iowa has 50 assists to just 13 turnovers in the first two games of the season despite playing at a fast pace on offense. The team also has assisted on 68.5 percent of its field goals.
“It’s something we talk about regularly,” Fran McCaffery said of limiting turnovers. “We’re going to play fast and we’re going to let the players play free and just go make plays.
“So, we trust them, and they’ll never trust themselves if they don’t feel that from the head coach. We encourage them to make plays, but we also understand that we’ve got to move the ball.’
Iowa defeated North Dakota and Alabama State in the first two games by lopsided scores of 110-68 and 98-67, respectively.
Junior forward Payton Sandfort leads Iowa in both scoring (19.0) and rebounding (10.5) heading in to Tuesday’s game.
MULVEY TO REDSHIRT: Fran McCaffery said Monday that 6-11 junior center Riley Mulvey will take a redshirt this season.
Mulvey has appeared sparingly in 29 games for the Hawkeyes over the past two seasons.
Iowa vs. Creighton
When: Tuesday, 9:10 p.m.
Where: Omaha, Nebraska, CHI Health Center (17,560)
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network:
Series record: Iowa leads, 14-11
Last meeting: Creighton won 82-59 on Nov. 20, 2011 in Des Moines.