Iowa still brings an admirable stockpile of talent to the court as coach Fran McCaffery begins his fifth year in charge. The team may not be a legitimate 11 men deep the way last season's was, but the Hawkeyes are still capable of leading the Big Ten in scoring. (Maybe not by six points per game again, but still.) That possibility heavily depends on McCaffery's ability to spot a successor to graduated star Roy Devyn Marble.
Marble paced the high-scoring Hawkeyes with 17 PPG on the season, including 18.3 per game in Big Ten play. Only Nebraska's Terran Petteway outscored him in conference games. Marble may have been the only Hawkeye who opponents truly needed to fear from all three shooting levels, combining an ability to attack the rim with a solid jumper out to NBA three-point range.
Without Marble, Iowa's offense will work from the inside out early on, riding senior power forward Aaron White while a new wing scoring threat can be identified. While depth isn't a strength of this group, there's a solid performer with All-Big Ten potential and a sleeper who brings to the lineup something close to Marble's offensive versatility.
Peter Jok (6'6", 200 lbs., Soph.)
Jok was the 11th of the 11-man Hawkeye rotation last season, largely serving as a fire-alarm player during the Big Ten schedule (you know, Only Break Glass in Case of Emergency?). That emergency arrived in Iowa's NCAA play-in game against Tennessee, and Jok responded with 10 points in 16 minutes after scoring a total of 11 in the previous two months. Jok was a non-conference phenomenon, with UTEP being the only significant opponent to surrender double digits to him. Still, he showed the kind of varied attack that senior Josh Oglesby or junior Mike Gesell—Jok's primary competition for the shooting guard spot—don't bring. Jok sank 2.5 three-pointers per 40 minutes, second on the team behind Oglesby, but Oglesby wasn't also a threat to finish at the rack. According to Hoop-Math.com, Jok converted 12 of his 19 looks at the tin, and only one was assisted, meaning he was getting there off the bounce or in transition. There's always the potential for a 10-to-15-point night, even if Jok's coming off the bench.
What may condemn him to doing so is his own proclivity for finding off-court trouble. Jok was arrested twice for traffic violations this offseason, once for operating a moped while intoxicated, then getting caught for driving the same vehicle on a barred license because he'd neglected to fix the same safety equipment that caused him to get popped the first time. His on-court decision-making could be phenomenal, but it won't matter if McCaffery has to constantly correct him for off-court blunders. Most coaches would have booted an end-of-the-rotation player with such facepalm-worthy tendencies, but the fact that McCaffery kept Jok around and touts him as a potential starter shows the coach's appraisal of his talent. Expect Jok to see plenty of minutes, especially if his three-point stroke becomes more reliable.
Jarrod Uthoff (6'9", 210 lbs., Jr.)
In his first year at Iowa after a contentious transfer from Wisconsin, Uthoff proved a reliable offensive weapon—when he could be convinced to take his shots. He led the Hawkeyes in both three-point and free-throw percentage, while also sinking better than 70% at the rim per Hoop-Math. For crying out loud, he was one of only 17 players in the nation to convert 50% from the floor, 40% from deep and 80% from the foul line. However, getting Uthoff to shoot was like convincing the Pope to curse. He took only four shots per game in Big Ten play and hoisted only 40 threes all season. Jok took six more in about 350 fewer minutes.
Uthoff has admitted that he was too selective with his shots last season, fearing permanent exile to the bench on a team as deep as last season's Hawkeyes. This year, however, there's a vacancy begging to be filled by a potent perimeter shooter who can also produce inside and make opponents pay at the foul line. Points need to be put on the board, but a shooter misses 100% of the attempts he doesn't take. If Uthoff can sustain anything close to last season's efficiency while producing one of the team's higher usage rates (seventh on the team last year; Jok, Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe all ended more possessions than Uthoff last year, and they were all less likely to end them with baskets), it's not a stretch to expect him to follow Marble as the team's leading scorer and All-Big Ten candidate in residence.
Dominique Uhl (6'8", 195 lbs., Fr.)
The Hawkeyes will be likely to run with a lot of three-guard lineups, plus White will be a rock at power forward. So, the lack of wing depth won't be as crippling as it might be for other teams. What this means is that you probably shouldn't expect a lot of minutes out of rookie Dom Uhl unless you're genetically related to him. (And if you are, then you'll probably be cursing McCaffery in German throughout the entire Big Ten season.) Uhl's lengthy enough and a good enough rebounder that he'll see occasional minutes at either forward position, but those might dry up when the calendar turns to 2015.
At a Penn State or Rutgers, Uhl could probably be an immediate contributor with his ballhandling skills, rebounding instincts and physical gifts. At Iowa, however, he'll likely have a season resembling Jok's last year: some hot non-conference games, long periods of inactivity in Big Ten play and perhaps a flash of inspiration during some postseason tournament (preferably the big one, eh, Iowans?). Most of this season will be spent learning on the job, so to speak, anticipating next offseason, when McCaffery can lock Uhl in the weight room and bury the key under a Carver-Hawkeye Arena concourse toilet.