Iowa CITY, Iowa - Fran McCaffery exudes of confidence and optimism. The Iowa coach still understands that his young basketball team is going to experience tough times.
The Hawkeyes drag a two-game losing streak into Saturday's home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. They started the season with five wins in a row.
"I think our team is going to continue to be a work on progress," McCaffery said. "There's no other way to look at it. We've got pieces that we were counting on that have been pretty good. We've got pieces that we were counting on that maybe haven't been as good as we had hoped.
"We still have confidence in them. We have some young guys that are going to be up and down. Fortunately, we've got some bodies. We can absorb foul trouble. We haven't had injuries yet. We can absorb that."
Iowa employs only one senior. Eric May plays 20.3 minutes a game off of the bench.
The team's defense was subpar in a 95-79 loss at Virginia Tech on Tuesday. The Hokies shot 52.5 percent from the floor with many of their baskets coming on run-out, layups. It came not he heels of a 75-63 loss to Wichita State in the Cancun Challenge.
"I thought we played tougher against Wichita State than we did against Virginia Tech," McCaffery said. "We didn't do the things defensively that we wanted to do. Some of that was a result of our poor shot selection.
"We're shooting threes and missing and they're making layups. It's hard to win that way."
The Hawkeyes start freshmen at two key positions. Point guard Mike Gesell is struggling against experienced players at his spot and foul trouble is hampering center Adam Woodbury.
"Personally, I need to be more aggressive and look to get guys open," said Gesell, who in the two losses totaled seven points and two assists against five turnovers.
"I know there's going to be highs and lows. You can't expect to play great every game. You just have to go out and give your best effort."
Woodbury averaged 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in Iowa's two setbacks. He got in early foul trouble at Virginia Tech.
"It's just putting myself in the right position on defense and not getting out of position," the seven-footer said.
The Hawkeyes are seeing a steady diet of zone defenses this early season. While McCaffery likes what he sees from his guys against that alignment, they need to attack it more consistently.
"We don't get the ball inside as much regularly as I would like," McCaffery said. "What a lot of teams do against zone is settle for jump shots and that's exactly what they want you to do. If you're making them, that's fine. If not, it becomes harder.
"So even if you throw it (inside) and you don't shoot it, you still have to throw it in. You have to go in and out either to the low post or the high post."
Iowa's margin for error might be about used up as it pertains to reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. The Hawkeyes likely need to get fat on a relatively soft non-conference schedule before facing a daunting Big Ten slate. In-state tussles with Iowa State and Northern Iowa are coming up in December.
"It's going to be a long season and you're going to have adversity," Iowa junior Zach McCabe said. "These two games, we have to learn from them. We have to take what coach is going to tell us in film and apply it on the practice court and in the games."