Steve Alford is hoping his players learned something from last season.
The Iowa Hawkeye basketball coach guided a team picked by many to finish in the top three in the Big Ten Conference and make a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament under the former Indiana Hoosier star.
Instead, the Hawkeyes found themselves in the NIT Tournament after a disappointing 19-16 finish overall.
"The big thing was we weren't ready to have the bulls eye on our chest," said Alford, who was in Storm Lake on Monday for the Northwest Iowa Hawkeye All-American Basketball Camp at Buena Vista University. "We were not tough enough. We sold out all our home games and drew a lot of fans on the road, and our players were not ready for that. Last summer we rested on our sucess instead of working that much harder. The players learned that and they're trying to improve."
"You learn from each of those experiences whether it's a win or a loss," Alford added. "You've got to learn from all those experiences."
Iowa lost its inside-outside tandem of Reggie Evans and Luke Recker to graduation, plus three other seniors.
Next season will be one of renewed excitement, but also question marks.
"We'll be younger, but we're excited," Alford said. "Our kids are entering their fourth year in our recruiting process, so we feel like we have a sense of ownership. We're excited about the direction we're headed. We'll have to see who fills the rebounding void of Evans and the scoring void of Recker. We're going to have some growing pains, but we're excited as well."
For players like Glen Worley and Chauncey Leslie, it's time to become more productive.
"I think Glen is ready for it," Alford said. "I think Chauncey could be a good leader. (Pierre) Pierce and (Jared) Reiner and Jeff Horner could be in that position as well."
Alford said the Hawkeyes will be a team trying to find its identity next season.
"We have to find our niche and find out what kind of a team we're going to be," he said. "We have seven home games to start the season, so we have to build confidence early. We have to fill roles early. I think it's going to be a fun team to watch and a fun team to coach. We'll be fairly athletic."