The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s basketball notebook | Hawkeyes head to Salt Lake City for second-round NIT matchup against Utah

Head coach Fran McCaffery offered his thoughts on the versatile Utes and what he called an “idiotic” postseason transfer portal.
Grace Smith
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery reacts during game one of the Hy-Vee Hawkeye Showcase between Iowa men’s basketball andFlorida A&M at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Rattlers 88-52.

The Iowa men’s basketball team will face off against Utah in the second round of the NIT on Sunday night at 8 p.m. The second-seeded Utes will host the third-seeded Hawkeyes in Salt Lake City as head coach Fran McCaffery’s squad aims to be among the final eight teams remaining for the first time since 2013. 

To do so, it must overcome Utah, which has undergone a resurgent season under new head coach Craig Smith and boasts a 7-foot scoring threat in Branden Carlson and a stat-stuffing machine in guard Deivon Smith. 

Unlike Kansas State, Utah hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the 2015-16 season, where it lost in the second round at the No. 3 seed. Since then, the team has posted two 20-win seasons, reaching the NIT twice before firing head coach Larry Krystkowiak in March 2021. 

In Smith’s three years at the helm, the former Utah State assistant registered a 48-49 record, with his first winning season arriving in 2023-2024 as the Utes finished the regular season with an 18-13 mark, good enough for sixth place in the PAC-12. Utah rattled off eight consecutive wins back from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31, 2023, but finished 7-11 down the stretch before getting bounced in the second round of the conference tournament. 

For the season, the Utes scored 78.1 points per game shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. In its first-round vanquishing of UC Irvine in the NIT, Utah shot a blistering 55.5 percent from the floor, drilling 9-of-18 triples in an 84-75 home victory. 

Carlson led both squads in scoring, piling up 21 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.

Hailing from South Jordan, Utah, Carlson earned second-team All-Pac 12 honors by the Associated Press this year, averaging 17.2 points and  6.9 boards while making nearly half of his shot attempts.  

The 7-foot, 228-pounder also has range from deep, shooting 37.6 percent from three-point land this season while attempting nearly five attempts per contest. On the defensive side, Carlson holds the program record for career blocks. 

“He’s a really good player, very versatile, long stretches the floor, really talented,” McCaffery said of Carlson at media availability on Friday. “[Utah] has a lot of guys who can score, they move and share the ball. I’ve been really impressed with how many different guys they have that make plays and can score.” 

One of these players is the fourth-year Smith, who is in his first season at Salt Lake City after previous stops at Mississippi State and Georgia Tech. Hailing from Decatur, Georgia, Smith posted career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage this season. 

Averaging 29 minutes per game in 2023-24, the 6-foot Smith is a do-it-all gadget for the Utes, averaging 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. He has 11 double-doubles, including three triple-doubles. Those triple-doubles rank second in the nation. 

The one major flaw in Utah’s game is its performance at the charity stripe, as the Utes rank 338th in the country with a 65 percent mark from the free-throw line. 

Transfer portal thoughts 

Iowa reserve guard Dasonte Bowen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury this season, entered the transfer portal Monday. He has two years of eligibility remaining. Over two seasons with the Hawkeyes, Bowen averaged 3.7 points on 42.8 percent shooting over 51 games. 

“Dasonte Bowen is one of the finest people I’ve ever coached in 41 years, and I will do whatever I can to help him find a place that works for him,” McCaffery said. “He’s one of my favorites ever.” 

While McCaffery didn’t criticize Bowen for entering the portal in the middle of the postseason, he did offer some choice words about the portal being open so late in the season. The portal officially opened on March 18, one day after Selection Sunday, and will remain open for 45 days until May 1. 

According to Sports Illustrated, 555 Division I men’s college basketball players entered the portal as of Tuesday night, a figure that represents almost more than 10 percent of the total players in the league. 

“Just another ridiculous, idiotic move,” McCaffery said of the postseason transfer portal. “The portal was nuts anyway. Somehow, someway, we have to figure out that mess, and it’s created by an organization that’s supposed to make sure there isn’t a mess. And that’s what really disappointing.”

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.