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Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Next Up - Wartburg
Iowa plays game two of its exhibition schedule tomorrow night when they meet the Wartburg Knights. Wartburg is a Division III team whose recent five-year run includes five 20-win seasons and two conference titles, with one coming last year. They return five of last year's top six scorers, which is leading to recognition from a few basketball publications. And to top it off, they even had a Kobliska on their roster as recently as 2002. Can this year's squad give Iowa a challenge? Can they at least put up a better fight than Brock did?

Wartburg has been a solid shooting team for the past few years. Last year they were anchored by Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference POY Nate Schmidt in the middle. He shot a robust 56% and could give Iowa another decent center to practice against, though he stands only 6-7 and does not rebound very well. Jason Steege is a 6-0 guard who hit 37% of his threes and excels at getting to the free throw line. These two provided the bulk of the offense (along with departed Jordan Atchison) last year and should again this year, though neither averaged 30 mpg. In fact, Wartburg tends to play pretty deep into the bench, regularly running out 9-10 players per game in recent years. I'm a little excited by that, in that Iowa will actually get to play against some live bodies, which were noticably absent in the Brock game.

The big problem area for Wartburg's offense has been turnovers. In the last three years, they put up the following TO% -

2005 - 22%
2004 - 23%
2003 - 26%

If you've followed this blog very long, you know that those are some pretty sad figures. Atchison was a big source of the turnovers last year, but he's also taking some very efficient shooting with him. Iowa's bigger, quicker guards should be able to exploit any dribbling/passing deficiencies that Wartburg might present tomorrow.

Wartburg's biggest defensive strength has been forcing turnovers. In the last three years -

2005 - 23%
2004 - 24%
2003 - 23%

Those figures are quite good for a defense, but Wartburg still allowed a decent shooting percentage each year. They've been especially vulnerable inside, and they allowed opponents to hit 52% of their twos last year. Maybe this will allow Greg Brunner to bounce back from last week's less-than-stellar performance.

Given Iowa's experience and skill in the backcourt, I doubt the Knights can provide much of a challenge on defense. The more interesting test will be to see if Iowa's ridiculous defense against Brock was the result of a poor, tired opponent or quality pressure. Wartburg should provide more of a challenge at that end of the court.
Hey, are you gonna revive the Big Ten previews? They were really good.
I'm going to be at the game. Once upon a time (in the mid 70s) I played for Wartburg; well, I was on the team! The coach then was the legendary Buzz Levick who had a career record of 510-225 (as of August 2005 he is 100th on the career wins for ALL NCAA mens basketball coaches); he won 14 IIAC championships and coached the father of current Hawkeye footballer CJ Barkema. The current coach of the Knights is Dick Peth, who played guard for the Hawks in the early 70's.

I'll be wearing my black and orange and rooting for the Knights, even though they probably won't do well.
I noticed when I was running through Wartburg's site that Levick had quite a career, including a run of nine straight conference championships back in the 60's and 70's. That's really impressive.

I expect that I'll finish another team preview this week, but since I managed to get so far behind on them, I doubt I'll come close to getting through the conference.
Wartburg's starting guard, Jason Steege, was a standout athlete at Fredricksburg.
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