GAME NOTES: The 2013-14 campaign begins for non-conference foes UNC-Wilmington and Iowa, as the two teams square off at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena on Friday night.
UNC-Wilmington, which plays its basketball out of the Colonial Athletic Association, will stay in the Hawkeye State for its next game, taking on Iowa State in Ames on Sunday. The Seahawks are coached by Buzz Peterson, who begins his fourth season at the helm and has led the team to records of 13-18, 10-21 and 10-20 in his previous three years. UNCW has regressed in conference play, logging one fewer win in each of the past three seasons.
Iowa is also under the direction of a fourth-year head coach in Fran McCaffery, and fans of the program are genuinely excited about the prospects of this year's club. The Hawkeyes went 25-13 last season and reached the NIT Championship Game. Tonight's opener marks the 500th game played at Carver- Hawkeye Arena, with Iowa logging a 380-119 record in the building over the years.
This game marks the first meeting between UNCW and Iowa in men's basketball.
The loss of former star Keith Rendleman (17.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg) can't be minimized for UNCW, which will rely heavily on a guy like junior forward Cedrick Williams (6.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) as he attempts to fill the void. Others who will need to elevate their game if the Seahawks have any chance of being competitive in the CAA this season include guards Chris Dixon (9.8 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Craig Ponder (8.5 ppg), as well as backcourt mates Tanner Milson (6.4 ppg) and juco transfer Addison Spruill, who averaged 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in two years at Brevard Community College (FL).
Iowa returns the bulk of last season's team that made it to the NIT title tilt, including senior Roy Devyn Marble. Expected to be the catalyst for a club that should be balanced and offer plenty of depth, Marble averaged 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season. Help is expected to come in the form of junior forward Aaron White (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and sophomore guard Mike Gesell (8.7 ppg, 2.6 apg). Big things are also expected of Wisconsin transfer Jared Uthoff and 7-foot-1 sophomore Adam Woodbury (4.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg), the former of whom hasn't played in two years after redshirting and then sitting out last season per NCAA regulations. Iowa hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, but those in the know believe that drought could be coming to and end this season.
Lacking a player who can take over a game the way Rendleman could, the Seahawks will likely be hampered in their quest for a season-opening victory. The Hawkeyes are clearly the better team, and they should have a relatively easy time of it in this milestone meeting in their home building.
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