IOWA CITY - The Iowa men's basketball team has had several layups this season. Saturday's noon contest against Coppin State should be another easy win and tuneup for what is expected to be a tough trek through the Big Ten Conference.
Coppin State (3-9) has won two of its last three games but comes into the game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with an RPI of 279. It is the sixth opponent with an RPI over 250 that Iowa has faced this season.
The Hawkeyes are unbeaten in the first five games and at 10-2 are off to their best start since 2004-05.
"I never look at RPI; it doesn't do you any good," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "It makes no sense for me to think about RPI. The No. 1 component in RPI is wins. If you keep winning, your RPI is going to be in good shape and it will go up. If you lose, and to a team that doesn't have a high RPI, that isn't going to help you. All I try to do is get our team to keep winning and the RPI will take care of itself."
The best win of the season came against Iowa State, which has an RPI of 55. Central Michigan and Western Kentucky are currently at 70 and 74, respectively, while the two losses came against Wichita State (24th in RPI) and Virginia Tech (168th in RPI).
Coppin State should be another win for the Hawkeyes. The Eagles, who play in the Mid-Eastern Conference, are led by Michael Murray, Patrick Cole and Troy Franklin. Murray is leading the team at 13.5 points and 10.7 rebounds, while Cole and Franklin are averaging 12 and 10 points per game, respectively.
Coppin St. (3-9) at Iowa (10-2)
Today, 12:06 p.m.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
TV: Big Ten Network
"They're going to be focused and ready," McCaffery said of the Eagles. "They run good stuff, share the ball and have a lot of different guys that can make a play and shot. They have great team speed and they compete. That's been a staple of his teams over the years, they're going to battle you."
The Hawkeyes can add to their NCAA tournament resume' if they can get their sixth straight victory at home.
Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble has been huge in the last two games for the Hawkeyes, scoring 57 points and burying 10 3-pointers. His per game scoring average is up to a team-best 16.1.
"He has played with an incredible level of confidence in some pretty intense games," McCaffery said. "He has mixed in pretty extensively with his drive, his pull-up game, his 3-point shot, his back cuts, he finishes around the basket, he get to the free throw line, and he is defending. His conditioning is tremendous because I'm playing him about 37, 38 minutes in those games."
While Marble is essentially the go-to guy on this year's squad, one of the things McCaffery is much more pleased with this season is the fact that he can put in 10-11 guys in any given game and know that they are good enough to be on the floor.
Iowa has just two players (Aaron White is the other) averaging in double figures but six guys are averaging at least points or better. That depth is one of the biggest reasons Iowa is 10-2 this year and have not lost to teams like Campbell and Long Beach State like it did last season. Another reason is improved play on the defensive end.
"No. 1, we're playing better defense and No. 2, we have more people involved," McCaffery said. "You can break it down into a million other ways but I think those are two things that have pleased me the most."
Iowa may be without Josh Oglesby again Saturday. He missed Wednesday's game against South Carolina State because of back spasms. McCaffery said he is essentially a game-time decision.
"We were just talking about that - I think he has been cleared to practice," McCaffery said. "We'll see how he does, and it will be a game time decision as to whether or not he plays."
Oglesby's absence gave more playing time to another true freshman - Pat Ingram. Ingram logged 21 minutes, scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in Wednesday's victory.
"I thought he was solid. He needs to get out there and be able to make a play and make a mistake and get a feel for what it feels like to be out there," McCaffery said. "I thought he handled himself really well."
Tip-off is set for 12:06 p.m. Saturday. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network. After Saturday, Iowa will not play again until hosting No. 6 Indiana at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31.