The Iowa Hawkeyes come to town to face Minnesota in the team’s first home conference game. Rick Reese from Black Heart Gold Pants provided some input on who the Hawkeyes are this season and what we can expect come game time. Check out our answers to Rick’s questions over at BHGP.

FTB: A less-than-stellar non-conference season led us to believe that the Hawkeyes had a pretty steep hill to climb to be relevant. Then they go and beat Wisconsin. Who is this Iowa team and what can we expect the rest of the way?

RR: Great question. Early in the season Iowa struggled to find an identity, especially in the paint. Melsahn Basabe struggled for a two-week stretch and the coaches believed it was due to weight gain in the off-season. He’s since lost the extra pounds and has been playing like the Basabe that shined as a freshman.

Bryce Cartwright played sparingly against Creighton and then had hamstring issues that set him back a couple of weeks. In Cartwright’s absence we’ve seen the emergence of Devyn Marble and now Cartwright is coming off the bench to provide a spark.

This team still has issues in the paint and on defense. Opponents had a streak of 60%+ shooting nights and can kill Iowa from beyond the three point arc if they get hot. This is a young team that appears to have great chemistry. They aren’t headed to the NCAA tournament but they’ll play spoiler for more than Wisconsin this Big Ten season.

FTB: Which players are you most excited about this season for the Hawkeyes?

RR: At this point it’s Aaron White and Devyn Marble. The local media mentioned that Marble may have been the most improved player over the summer and it’s starting to show-up on the court. He can run the point and create his own shot. His pull-up jump shot is still a work in progress, and so is getting to the basket, but he’s improved both and appears to be developing each night out.

Aaron White has already earned Big Ten Frosh of the Week twice this season. Actually, he shared it with Zeller week one. He’s constantly moving and while not always pretty plays hard every night out. I think he’s better than people expected and is a key part to Fran McCaffery’s turn around.

FTB: Fran McCaffery is in his second season in Iowa City. What is the prevailing feeling on his capabilities as a coach and his ability to move Iowa up in the Big Ten?

RR: I think fans are excited about the big contrast in style of play. I don’t have the stats but Iowa has to be near the top of the Big Ten in possessions and tempo. He’s making the best of what he has and his recruits thus far are far better than what we had with Lickliter.

Hawkeye fans know there is help on the way in terms of the 2012 recruiting class. This season, if anything, was thought as a rebuilding, or building year. There have been some grumblings about X and O’s, especially when opponents shoot 60% from the floor, but, overall, I’d say the fan base is being patient.

FTB: What do the Hawkeyes need to do to win in Minneapolis?

RR: They can’t let Minnesota’s guards get hot from three point land. Iowa’s interior defense is pretty poor and hot shooting will open it up even more for Sampson III. Iowa has to control the tempo and look for good baskets. The Hawks will also have to hope for a little luck too.

It’s important to get Marble, Basabe and Cartwright going in the early part of the game. These guys seem to thrive on energy and if they can get confidence they’ll keep Iowa in the game.

FTB: When all is said and done, how do you think the game will end up?

RR: I think Minnesota wins, something like 70-62. It’s tough to win back-to-back road games in the Big Ten and I think the Gophers are hungry for that first Big Ten win.