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“We’re not equipped yet to just plug somebody in, and then have somebody plug in to that backup’s role and say ‘OK, we’re not going to miss a beat.’ And I think that’s the hardest thing about rebuilding,” Crean said. “Your margin for error in the games is so small … it’s very hard to overcome injuries, things like that when you don’t have it built up yet the way it needs to be.”

McCaffery may be in the toughest spot of all.

Iowa slipped into irrelevance during coach Todd Lickliter’s three-year tenure, losing 20 games for the first time last season.

McCaffery is doing his best to squeeze all the wins he can out of this season while building for the future. Much like Michigan’s commitment to bolstering its facilities and fixing up aging Crisler Arena, the $47 million that Iowa is pouring into renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena should help the Hawkeyes compete for recruits they’ve been losing to more successful schools like Wisconsin.

The Hawkeyes finally broke through with their first Big Ten win on Sunday _ against Indiana. Perhaps the most encouraging sign from that 91-77 win was that nearly half of Iowa’s points came from freshmen.

“What you have to do is focus on your own team and try to get better, try to develop your younger players and, obviously, aspire to be one of the better teams in the league and compete with those teams,” McCaffery said.


AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.