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Fran McCaffery reacts to an 83-77 overtime loss to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

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As he discussed what was ahead following the NCAA Tournament in March, Fran McCaffery dropped this quote into the discussion. 

"We’ve also put together probably the toughest schedule we’ve ever played in the history of Iowa basketball next year," the Hawkeyes' coach said. "And that was by design.”

Now, that schedule, has come to fruition.

Iowa released its 2019-20 men's basketball schedule Friday. And it's certainly got a lot of tough opponents (which we already knew about) and plenty of variety. 

The biggest headline is that Iowa's Jan. 4 game against Penn State will be played in McCaffery's hometown of Philadelphia at the famed Palestra — where McCaffery played college ball at Penn from 1980 to 1982. That will be considered a Penn State home game.

“We’re excited to go there and play in that facility in front of a packed house,” McCaffery said. “This will be a great opportunity in a great atmosphere. I grew up going to the Palestra every weekend with my parents and brother, and then had the opportunity to practice and play there pretty much every day when I went to school there."

Assigning dates to opponents is the most notable thing in a schedule release. A few observations:

Check out the run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 21. Not an easy game in the bunch, starting with a matchup against reigning NCAA runner-up Texas Tech as part of the Las Vegas Classic ... and finishing with perennial heavyweight Cincinnati at the United Center in Chicago. 

In between, Iowa plays at Syracuse and Iowa State, and opens its 20-game Big Ten Conference slate at Michigan and home against Minnesota. That's daunting.

In an interesting mid-January quirk, Iowa landed three straight Big Ten home games (against Michigan, Rutgers and Wisconsin). That means the Hawkeyes will go 16 days between road trips, a welcome stretch no doubt.

Iowa will open its season on Nov. 8 against SIU-Edwardsville, on the eve of a road football game at Wisconsin. It'll finish the regular season exactly four months later, March 8, at Illinois.

Iowa's 2019-20 regular-season basketball schedule

Fri., Nov. 8: vs. SIU-Edwardsville

Mon., Nov. 11: vs. DePaul (Gavitt Games)

Fri., Nov. 15: vs. Oral Roberts

Thurs., Nov. 21: vs. North Florida

Sun., Nov. 24: vs. Cal Poly

Thurs., Nov. 28: vs. Texas Tech, at Las Vegas (Orleans Arena)

Fri., Nov. 29: vs. Creighton or San Diego State, at Las Vegas (Orleans Arena)

Tues., Dec. 3: at Syracuse (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)

Fri., Dec. 6: at Michigan

Mon., Dec. 9: vs. Minnesota

Thurs., Dec. 12: at Iowa State

Sat., Dec. 21: vs. Cincinnati, at Chicago (United Center)

Sun., Dec. 29: Kennesaw State

Sat., Jan. 4: vs. Penn State, at Philadelphia (The Palestra)

Tues., Jan. 7: at Nebraska

Fri., Jan. 10: vs. Maryland

Tues., Jan. 14: at Northwestern

Fri., Jan. 17: vs. Michigan

Wed., Jan. 22: vs. Rutgers

Mon., Jan. 27: vs. Wisconsin

Thurs., Jan. 30: at Maryland

Sun., Feb. 2: vs. Illinois

Wed., Feb. 5: at Purdue

Sat., Feb. 8: vs. Nebraska

Thurs., Feb. 13: at Indiana

Sun., Feb. 16: at Minnesota

Thurs., Feb. 20: vs. Ohio State

Tues., Feb. 25: at Michigan State

Sat., Feb. 29: vs. Penn State

Tues., March 3: vs. Purdue

Sun., March 8: at Illinois

Wed.-Sun., March-11-15: at Big Ten Tournament, Indianapolis (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)

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