Colorado’s Tad Boyle and Iowa’s Fran McCaffery have at least one thing in common.
Both of them have plenty of capable players on their basketball teams, and they’re not afraid to use all of them.
The Buffaloes and Hawkeyes may be two of the deepest teams in the country and that will be on full display tonight at 8 p.m. when they meet in a special neutral site game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
It’s one of those games where the scorer’s table will stay busy just keeping track of all the substitutions.
Iowa has used at least 10 players in every game and lately has employed as many as 12 players in its regular rotation.
Colorado does not have a player who has started every game but 12 of the 13 squad members have started at least once. In a game last week against South Dakota State — which defeated Iowa earlier in the season — Boyle started two players who had hardly played all season and ended up getting 95 points from his bench in a 112-103 double-overtime win.
“They all play," McCaffery said of the Buffaloes. “They all have particular skill sets. They all have multiple roles on the team. That doesn’t really seem to change whether they start or come off the bench.
“They’ve got a roster of people you have to be ready for. It’s not three or four guys. They’ve got multiple guys that bring different things to the table that you’ve got to prepare for. I guess in many ways, it’s irrelevant who they start."
One player the Hawkeyes definitely need to be ready for is 6-foot freshman guard McKinley Wright IV, who did not start against South Dakota State but came very close to matching Chauncey Billups as the second Colorado player ever to reach double figures in points, rebounds and assists in a game. He finished with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists.
McCaffery likened Wright to former NBA superstar Allen Iverson, who he coached against early in his career. He said Wright, who even leads Colorado in blocked shots, is “a smaller guy in height but he plays big," noting that he “kind of comes at you 100 miles an hour every time.
“He certainly doesn’t play like a freshman at all," McCaffery said. “He’s one of the better players that we’ve gone against on film."
McCaffery’s Hawkeyes (7-6) have gotten on a role lately, following a four-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak in which the smallest margin of victory has been 26 points.
But this figures to be a much tougher opponent. Colorado got off to a 6-0 start this season and currently is 8-3.
“I think we definitely have been playing well the last week or so, but we’re going to see some better competition coming up," Iowa forward Nicholas Baer said Tuesday following a 92-64 win over Southern Utah. “We’re really looking forward to the game Friday. I think it will be a good test of where we are."
The Hawkeyes have been hit with a variety of small injuries and ailments through the non-conference season and they are dealing with several right now. Junior reserves Ahmad Wagner and Brady Ellingson both suffered ankle injuries against Southern Utah and McCaffery said early Thursday that neither had practiced since. He labeled both “both day to day."
McCaffery also said his son, Connor, has not bounced back as well as expected from a battle with mononucleosis. The 6-5 freshman has been able to play a few minutes in the past three games but his stamina is not returning quickly.
He left open the possibility that Connor could still take a redshirt season, as originally planned.
“After this game, we’ll kind of see where that is and let the doctors decide where we go from here," McCaffery said.
The Iowa coach added that he is looking forward to the neutral site game, something the Hawkeyes haven’t done much of in recent seasons.
“I thought this made great sense," he said. “We’ve got a lot of fans up in the northern part of the state. It’s a first-class venue with people that know what they’re doing. It’s an opportunity to play a team from a power conference that we ordinarily wouldn’t play."