After a seven-year NCAA Tournament absence, Fran McCaffery’s Iowa Hawkeyes managed to do just enough (20-12, 9-9 in the Big Ten) to secure the Black and Gold’s first ticket to the Big Dance since 2006.
Gone now due to graduation are star guard Roy Devyn Marble and four-year contributors Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe, which leaves the Hawkeyes a little thin at the power forward position. That concern, plus Iowa’s lack of a go-to scoring threat like Marble, has left many wondering if the Hawkeyes have enough grab the program’s second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
But looking deeper, Iowa may be just as talented – given the maturation of several contributors and an infusion of depth in the backcourt – as it was a year ago. The Hawkeyes won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2014-15, but their projected depth chart gives the program’s followers enough to believe another Tournament run is a realistic possibility.
Without Marble’s 17 points per game, Iowa’s backcourt will have to do a better job creating shots than it did a year ago. On broken possessions, it seemed as if Marble would bail out the offense (or at least attempt to) by maneuvering his way into an open area to shoot.
Mike Gesell was extremely impressive at times a year ago, which gives Iowa stability at the point guard position. But the x-factor for the Hawkeye backcourt is the addition of junior college guard Trey Dickerson. The New York City native averaged 19.8 points and 5.7 assists for Williston State College in North Dakota last season, and he’ll come to Iowa City with three years of eligibility remaining. Dickerson has described himself as a"floor general that can score."
His play could mesh well with Gesell, who is more of a facilitator himself. And if Iowa goes lengthier in the frontcourt, the backcourt duo could at least be tolerable (with help) defensively.
At shooting guard, Josh Oglesby is expected to take over regular duties. The senior followed up his putrid sophomore campaign with a very solid junior season, averaging 6.6 points while hitting 40.3 percent of his shots from three-point land. Sophomore Peter Jok will back up Oglesby, but he’s expected to take a large jump. Jok’s smooth release and elevation are what persuaded McCaffery to heavily recruit the state’s Mr. Basketball in 2013. And he has a legitimate chance to push Oglesby for playing time this year.
Junior guard Anthony Clemmons disappointed in 2013-14 after an encouraging freshman season. A comeback season for him would be a welcomed addition to Iowa’s already deep and talented backcourt.
The biggest difference we’ll see in McCaffery’s rotation this year lies in the frontcourt. Basabe and McCabe accounted for over 80 percent of the available minutes at the power forward position – and given the limited role Iowa expects freshman Dominique Uhl to play this year – a position change is in store for Aaron White, who has mainly played at small forward.
White’s style and physicality isn’t of your typical power forward. But his length and rebounding skills (averaged a team high 6.7 boards a game last year) give hope that he can at least handle the position defensively. His offense abilities have never been in question, and he’ll be looked upon as Iowa’s go-to option this year. A lot more will be asked of White, but his 63.1 shooting percentage on two-point attempts aided a conference-best 65.9 True Shooting Percentage a season ago – an offensive efficiency not rivaled by many in the country.
Jarrod Uthoff is expected to take over White's previous spot at small forward. After impressing early on last year, Uthoff's minutes saw a dip in conference play. Whether that was due to his inexperience or relatively thin fram is unknown, but an offseason dedicated to bulk and muscle would serve Uthoff well.
McCaffery has also stated that he expects to play Gabriel Olaseni and Adam Woodbury together more this season. After the idea was thrown around before the 2013-14 season, the duo barely saw any time together. "I’m to the point now where I’m comfortable with doing that," McCaffery told The Gazette on May 20. "Two years ago, maybe not so much. But now they know what they’re doing, and they’re both veterans."
Woodbury has been the more trusted option for McCaffery because of his defensive presence. But Olaseni has a rare set of skills for a player his size. If Iowa can find the right blend with the two, it would give it one of the largest frontcourt duos in college basketball, as both players are around the 7-foot mark.
PG: Mike Gesell, Trey Dickerson, Anthony Clemmons
SG: Josh Oglesby, Peter Jok
SF: Jarrod Uthoff
PF: Aaron White, Dominique Uhl
C: Adam Woodbury, Gabriel Olaseni
This chart represents a base for what Iowa plans to do in 2014-15, but it’s certainly not set in stone and has a chance to be jumbled before conference play even begins. Several players (Jok, Dickerson, and Olaseni) could emerge and push for more playing time. And the versatility of White, Uthoff and Olaseni will definitely keep McCaffery’s rotations fluid and on a game-to-game basis.
Iowa seemed to run out of gas towards the end of last season, and without a star player, it’s tough to concretely say whether or not Iowa will grab another Tournament bid. But with at least 8 significant contributors maturing and the addition of Dickerson, the Hawkeyes are well-equipped to at least push some of the top-tier programs in the Big Ten again in 2014-15.