The Iowa Basketball team will only lose one contributing member from their 19-15 team that lost in the second round of the NIT. However, it's 1st team All-Big Ten guard, Peter Jok. Jok averaged over 20 points per game for the Hawkeyes in senior season, but we saw the team play fairly well in two games without him. Losing Jok opens up a lot of shots, but it also takes a proven scorer and leader off a young team. And even though this squad got a bunch of experience in their first couple of years, they're still going to be relatively inexperienced.
The future looks bright for the Hawkeyes on the hardwood, but replacing someone like Jok is never easy. Let's take a way-too-early look at next year's Hawkeyes.
Key Contributors Returning
Jordan Bohannon (SO): Bohannon averaged 10 points and 5 assists as a freshman, shattering the expectations of many. He was named to the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team along with his teammate Tyler Cook. Jordan recorded double-double's in 3-straight games to end his freshman campaign. He'll need to work on his defense, but he has all the tools to be a big time offensive threat during his Sophomore year.
Nicholas Baer (RSJR): Baer was back and forth between starting and coming off the bench in his Sophomore season, but Fran McCaffery finally settled on him being Iowa's 6th man. That led to him being named the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year after he averaged over 7 points and 5 rebounds per game. Baer likely slides into a starting role next year, unless someone steps up to play the three.
Tyler Cook (SO): I already made mention to the fact that Cook was named to the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team after his impressive year. He was a top 100 recruit out of high school and showed us why late in the season. He was scoring, rebounding, and defending, which was a step up for him. Early on in the season the point production was there, but he wasn't the beast on the glass that we thought he could be. He's poised for an excellent Sophomore year as well. Cook should look to incorporate more of a jump shot into his game in the off-season.
Cordell Pemsl (SO): He was another guy that McCaffery was hot and cold with in the starting lineup. However, he finally settled on a bench role towards the midway point of the Big Ten season for Cordell. It was nice having Pemsl come off the bench when Cook was coming out to balance out the scoring in the post. He also broke expectations for me in his first season as a Hawkeye. I still like him coming off the bench to be an offensive threat next season. I'd like to see him develop a 15 foot jump shot that he can knock down with consistency in the off-season, much like Cook.
Projected Starting Lineup
Jordan Bohannon (SO): 10 points and 5 assists per game as a freshman. 89 made 3-point field goals.
Isaiah Moss (RSSO): 6.5 points per game as a redshirt freshman. Shot 36% from 3-point land as well.
Nicholas Baer (RSJR): 8 points and 6 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Shot nearly 40% from 3-point land for the season.
Tyler Cook (SO): 12 points and 5 rebounds per game in his first season. Shot 55% from the field as well.
Ahmad Wagner (JR): 5 points and 3 rebounds per game in about 16 minutes played per contest.
Who's Coming In?
Luka Garza (6'11" 235 lb C): The Maret School product led the Frogs all the way to the state title game before being ousted by Gonzaga. He averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds during his senior season and figures to impact Iowa next year. The Hawkeyes were missing their 7'1" big man, Adam Woodbury, when it came to paint protection, and Luka could definitely solve that problem. He averaged 2.5 blocks for Maret on his way to being named Washington, D.C.'s Gatorade Player of the Year.
Jack Nunge (6'10" 205 lb PF): Castle High's Jack Nunge was an absolute beast in Indiana this year. He averaged over 22 points and 11 rebounds per game, while blocking almost 4 shots per game. He has the ability to step out and hit the three as well as run the floor. He'll need to get a bit bigger and stronger, but Jack is another guy that could help Iowa with rim protection during his Iowa career. His Castle team went 24-4 this season.
Connor McCaffery (6'5" 190 lbs PG/SG): Connor is the son of current Iowa men's head basketball coach, Fran McCaffery and he did not disappoint in his senior season at Iowa City West High. He led the Trojans to a state title in Iowa's class 4A while averaging 19.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He has the ability to stretch the floor with his three point shot as well as get to the rim and finish. He has good size, so he could play off the ball at Iowa as well as handle it.
Austin Ash (6'2" Guard): Ash is going to be walking on to the Iowa Basketball program next year. He's from Mount Vernon, IA which is just about 30 minutes north if you aren't familiar with the area. He averaged 23 points per game in his senior season and shot over 42% from behind the arc. Ash also chipped in over 3 assists per game for Mount Vernon. He'll redshirt next season.
What to Build On
The future is bright in Iowa City. We've said it 100 times and we've heard it even more. But nothing is going to come easy for Fran McCaffery and his young, talented group of players. The rest of the Big Ten carries loads of young talent, much like the Hawkeyes do. McCaffery knows this is as tough of a league to coach/play in that their is, he's been around the block.
He returns his talented point guard, who looks like he could be a Big Ten First Teamer before his time at Iowa is up. He was nearly flawless down the stretch for Iowa, notching three straight double-double's to end the year. Have I mentioned that before? Maybe once or twice. He improved so much over the course of his first year in Iowa City and, to be honest, it isn't surprising. He comes from a very athletic family with all three of his older brothers playing major college basketball and his Dad playing football at Iowa. Jordan's toughness and calm attitude are what is going to carry him through the next three years.
Isaiah Moss showed us that there is potential in his game as well. He had several games where he exploded, scoring in double figures 9 times this season for Iowa. The only problem was consistency. We'd see Isaiah have great nights and then bad ones. He's got all the tools to be a great player at Iowa, but the next step for him is consistency and confidence.
Tyler Cook is going to be able to build on a very nice finish to his first year in Iowa City. He battled that finger injury in November and into December and eased his way back in after that. We finally saw that he is capable of putting up points and snatching a lot of rebounds. Tyler's low-post game is pretty polished, but he has a tendency to turn it over quite a bit and lacks any real jump shot. We saw him bury two 3-pointers in his first year in Iowa City. That - and a nice elbow jump shot - would be nice additions to Cook's game.
For Cordell Pemsl, it's a lot of the same things as Cook. We hardly saw him hit the 12-15 foot jump shot that a lot of forwards need to really dominate a game. Pemsl's back to the basket game is about as crafty as it gets. He's got great feet and utilizes his fakes really well. Plus, his touch is so soft around the cup and that is what led to him leading the Big Ten in field goal percentage in his first year. Both Cook and Pemsl should be big time forces for Iowa in the low post for the next few seasons.
Other than that, Nicholas Baer just needs to add more minutes to his resume. He has the potential to average double digits if he averages around 28-29 minutes per game, which would be up four from this season. McCaffery wants to play him big minutes, but he just gets so tired because he's 100% effort at all times. He's proven he can hit the three - he drilled 40% of those this year - and he's going to get you a lot of garbage buckets off of offensive rebounds.
I'd like to see Christian Williams develop more of a jump shot so he can contribute a bit more when he's spelling Bohannon. He impacts Iowa on the defensive side, but just isn't much of a threat on the offensive side. Dom Uhl will be entering his senior season - where did the time go? - and likely takes on a bench role like he did this season. Dom has just lacked consistency throughout his career and really struggled from the field this season. He shot a career low 35% from the field in his junior year.
Brady Ellingson must continue to work on his shot. He had a heck of a year leading the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage as well as rounding his game out on both defense and offense. He was a valuable piece when Jok was sidelined and when he's making shots McCaffery plays him. Ryan Kriener impressed in limited action. He was playing decent minutes midway through the Big Ten slate, but McCaffery narrowed his rotation a bit and that left Ryan as the odd man out. Consistent work on both offense and defense should earn him some minutes off the bench next season because he can contribute.
Maishe Dailey was the odd man out when it came to the back court, but he had games where he showed that his length and 3-point shooting ability could help this Iowa program. He'll enter next season fighting Ellingson and Williams for minutes off the bench. Finally, Riley Till. Till redshirted this season after walking on last year and I really like Riley's game. I watched him play once in high school and he really impressed me. He runs the floor well, shoots it well, and could potentially be Nicholas Baer 2.0. Just a guy that works his butt off for you. And at 6'6" and 193 lbs, he fits the mold.
Well, the NCAA Tournament is still going on. Tons can happen between now and the start of the next college basketball season, but I'll go ahead and toss a prediction out there for you guys and we can argue about it later.
The Hawkeyes are going to have the ability to go deep into their bench yet again next season. They'll play 10 - maybe more - guys and will try to run teams into the ground with their quick pace. Garza and Nunge give them good rim protectors and they return a gigantic chunk of the scoring from this past season.
The rest of the Big Ten is going to be talented still because the freshman class in the conference this season was unbelievable, but we'll likely see guys like Miles Bridges leave town and for the NBA. Purdue should lose Caleb Swanigan to the NBA, but Maryland retains a bunch of talent, especially if Melo Trimble goes ahead and stays for another season. They're also bringing in a pretty highly rated recruit in Bruno Fernando.
I like the Big Ten to continue to be a good conference and I think Iowa finishes in the top 5 or 6 in the Big Ten and heads for the Big Dance after skipping out this year. I'll peg Tyler Cook as a first team All-Big Ten selection and I think Jordan Bohannon will earn second team honors.
Again, that was obviously just for fun because we're way too far off to put too much stock into it, but one thing is for sure: The 2017-18 Iowa Hawkeyes should be a fun bunch to watch on the hardwood.