Today, let's examine what Iowa will look like next year with the loss of several key players, an the addition of six new faces.
Freeman and Johnson were Iowa's two leading scorers last year. One the whole, Iowa loses nearly 65 percent of its scoring and 58 percent of its rebounding from this past season, where the Hawks suffered a school record 19 losses to just 13 wins. In other words, the prospects for 2008-2009, on paper, are fairly grim.
Tate came on strong late in the year, scoring in double figures in seven of Iowa's last nine games; he had only cracked double figures in four of Iowa's first 22 games. He averaged 13.5 points per game over the last nine, along with 7.1 rebounds per game over that span. He clearly ‘got what Lick was cookin' down the stretch, and was named one of this year's co-captains. The other being Jarryd Cole, who played just 13 games of his freshman season. Cole hit double figures in five of his final eight games, averaging nearly nine points and six rebounds during that time. He was getting better in some phase during that stretch, and it was a big blow to the team went he went down. Who knows, perhaps Tony Freeman doesn't feel such a need to take on a scorers mentality from the point guard position had Cole not gotten hurt, and he would be back next year. But that's water under the bridge at this point.
If Cole can come back 100% by November, which isn't a pie in the sky scenario, Iowa would have a solid front court.
Guard Jake Kelly cracked double figures in six of his final seven games last year, averaging nearly 13 points per game in that stretch. In the game where he did not score double figures, he had nine. He had but five double-figure games in Iowa's other 24 contests. He averaged 35.5 minutes per game during that stretch. For the season, Kelly scored 235 points. Here are some freshman point totals by some other notable former Hawkeyes, and their total points for their careers:
Kelly has just begun his career, and while he had his share of ups and downs during the course of the year, he shows a ton of promise for the future.
Jeff Peterson had an up and down year, in that order. He scored 12 points and dished out nine assists in his Iowa debut and followed that up with a 20 point performance. He would hit double figures just one more time, 19 against Penn State in Iowa City. It seemed as though Peterson had a spot in Todd Lickliter's doghouse at points in time this past year. Lickliter expects a lot from his point guard, and Peterson was too carefree with the ball for Lickliter's liking. But Peterson has a world of promise and potential, and I still believe the sky is the limit for a kid with his basketball IQ. I know he didn't always show it at times last year, but he has the mental side for the game and the physical tools. He just needs to let things come to him and not force the issue.
WHO'S ON THE WAY: Iowa put together a solid recruiting class, addressing some shooting needs. Matt Gatens (6-foot-5) and Anthony Tucker (6-foot-4) can fill the basket from beyond the arc, and both players are tall enough to get their shot off when they need to. Gatens was Iowa's Mr. Basketball, and he will arrive on campus with a surprisingly developed upper body. Tucker was the runner up for Minnesota's Mr. Basketball and he can score, and possibly even play some point guard for you. Gatens played a little bit of point this year and at the AAU level, but that's not the position where he will log the majority of his minutes. These two young men are going to play early and often, and it will not be surprising to see one of them approach Kelly's point totals from this past year.
Aaron Fuller had a fantastic senior season in Arizona, and he is one of the most talented players in that state. He has a better outside shot than Jarryd Cole and has some power to his game A lot of folks feel that Iowa got a steal when they landed Fuller.
Devan Bawinkel, a 6-4 shooting guard, will give the Hawks more scoring punch from beyond the arc. Andrew Brommer may be a wildcard. He is 6-9, 220 pounds and some folks believe he will need some seasoning, but he too can shoot the ball from the outside. Jermain Davis is still an unknown commodity at the Big Ten level, after spending a year at Southeast Community College and last year at Kirkwood.
ROSTER AT A GLANCE
PG: Jeff Peterson
SG: Jake Kelly/J.R. Angle/Jermain Davis
SG: Matt Gatens/Anthony Tucker
F: Cyrus Tate/David Palmer
F: Jarryd Cole/Aaron Fuller
Again, Cole's health will be a big factor for next year's team. There is a realistic chance that he could be 100 percent by the time the Big Ten season rolls around, because that will have been one full year since he injured his ACL. Iowa needs him to be at that level by the time the Big Ten season rolls around. A lot will hinge on Peterson's growth at point, and his willingness and capability to do what Lickliter wants his point guard to do; take care of the basketball and get the ball into the hands of the shooters.
Tate averaged 22.1 minutes per game last year, and that figure should soar over 30 per game. He also averaged 2.7 fouls per game, second most on the team behind Cole's 2.8. He will have to learn how to play aggressively on defense without fouling, because he has to be on the floor. I expect Gatens and Tucker to average more than 22 minutes per game; Kelly averaged over 27 last year, and that was with Freeman and Johnson on the team. Fuller's role is hard to figure at this point. If he can step in and play at this level, he will get 20 minutes per game backing up Tate and Cole. If Cole is not 100 percent, Fuller will be pressed into heavy rotation from the opening tip of the year.
I don't expect all that much out of Angle and Palmer, and there is still some uncertainty surrounding the future of those two players. Without them figuring into the minutes pool, Iowa is looking at eight players, which seems about right based on previous comments from Lickliter as it relates to how deep he likes to go on his bench.
After surveying the Big Ten and analyzing who Iowa has coming back, I believe the best Iowa can do next year is 7th place. That would require better play at the point, fewer turnovers, heady freshmen and a healthy Cole. If they get all of those things, perhaps they could fight for a sixth place finish.
Purdue, Michigan State and Wisconsin will be in the top tier. Ohio State may be alone on the tier beneath that. With the above Iowa scenario, I could see the Hawks, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State fighting it out in the next tier. Indiana and Northwestern will likely share the bottom rung in the league.
So many questions, and we won't have the answers for a long time…but at least we'll have the Prime Time League for some sneak peaks.