There is a level of anxiety that creeps into my head when I think about Iowa's frontcourt heading into this season. Instead of the positive vibes that generally permeates through my consciousness (of which I try to reflect in my writing), when it comes to the big fellas in black and old gold, my head gets all jumbled up. I know I've probably spent too much time thinking about the "what ifs" with no real basketball to throw myself into, but there are questions here. More than the other positions I broke down throughout our previews. Can Jarrod Uthoff possibly get any better than he already is? If not, who steps up into the Aaron White role from last season? What do the Hawkeyes do without Gabriel Olaseni? With that, what happens when Adam Woodbury gets into foul trouble? Is there anyone on this roster that can guard the rim like Olaseni did? Can Dale Jones make the leap from junior college standout to big time Big Ten power forward? Where does Domenic Uhl fit in? Can Uhl be White-light?
I'm just concerned. With White gone, it's going to be tricky. The former Hawkeye and Uthoff together took a lot of pressure off other players (and each other), especially in the second half of the season. Is there another player on this roster that can help out Uthoff now that every opposing defense will be gunning for him? And what about Woody? He's had the Big Ten's 6th Man of the Year ready to wreak havoc behind him for the better part of two seasons, does he have it in him to play smart on both the defensive and offensive end?
I hope so.
Look, it's not all "doom and gloom" here. The four players we will discuss below are extremely talented. But I just don't know where they go from here? These guys are without question the most important pieces to the Hawkeyes quest to another NCAA tournament trip and obtaining some decent staying power amongst the elite in the Big Ten.
And they'll all surely have to produce at higher clips for any of that to happen.
Jarrod Uthoff, Senior
I've written about Uthoff many of times for BTPowerhouse and it never gets old. I love his game. He's been the definition of solid ever since he put on a Hawkeyes jersey. He's a hustle enthusiast, efficiently gifted and is one of the most thrifty defenders I've seen in the Big Ten. He's one of the best players in the conference and the country for that matter (even if CBS doesn't agree with me and many other Iowa fans), yet the question for Uthoff going into the season is whether or not he can raise his level of play and all around efficiency to Aaron White type levels (or beyond) in his senior season.
Take a look at what White did last season:
He played in 78.1% of Iowa's minutes. He had an offensive rating of 128.1 (10th in the nation) while using 23.1% of the teams possessions. He had an effective Field Goal percentage of 55.3% and a True Shooting percentage of 63.3%. He grabbed 18.5% of the teams total defensive rebounds (which led the team). He drew 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes (47th in the nation) and had a Free Throw rate of 72.6 (33rd in the nation). He shot 81.9% from the free throw line and 55.8% inside the arch all while averaging 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals and .5 blocks per game.
And here are Uthoff's comps:
75.3% of Iowa's minutes. An offensive rating of 113.8 while using 20.7% of the teams possessions. He had an effective Field Goal percentage of 50.4% and a True Shooting percentage of 52.9%. He grabbed 17.2% of the teams total defensive rebounds. He drew 2.9 fouls per 40 minutes and had a Free Throw rate of 20.9. He shot 73.7% from the free throw line and 46.8% from inside the arch while averaging 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks a game.
Sure, fun with stats only gives you half the picture, but Iowa had both of these players on the court more than anyone else last season. They played miraculously off each other and defenses had to account for both at all times. Can Uthoff -- who seemingly got a little worse for the wear with the uptick in minutes over what he did in his sophomore season at Iowa -- raise those numbers on his own? Can he average 16/7/2 over the entirety of the season?
Why not? It's not that big of a leap and seems extremely plausible. After all, it's his third year under McCaffery and he's grown with these players in this system. He will be the first option on offense to score and seemingly wants the pressure of being "the guy" when the Hawkeyes scoring attack gets stuck in the mud -- as it always seems to do just before or after the half.
Where the biggest changes can happen in his game (that will effectively raise his individual output) will be by attacking the basket and drawing more fouls and creeping into the 40% range on his three pointers (37.2% on 145 attempts last season). If he can do those two things, grab rebounds at a similar rate and remain the quiet "do as I do" type leader, the ceiling on Uthoff's game will only rise.
Let's do this Skeletor.
Adam Woodbury, Senior
Oh Woody. I'm worried and excited for you all at the same time. I'm worried about your lungs and your legs and your mind and your heart but am just as excited about your future professional career if you can do what McCaffery wants. But we'll get to that.
For now, let's talk facts. Woodbury is flat out the emotional leader of this Hawkeyes team. He's the hot headed love child of Captain Insano and Iowa's closest thing to Dikembe Mutumbo. As far as a season outlook, he's going to have to expand his game more than he's ever had to do without the likes of Olaseni patiently waiting to save the day behind him.
But most importantly, he's going to have to be in the best shape of his life because McCaffery wants to play Woody "30 to 36" minutes a game this season. And no that's not a typo. THIRTY TO THIRTY SIX MINUTES!
That seems like a lot to ask. Especially so when you consider that Woodbury played a career high 20.5 minutes and averaged 5.3 Fouls per 40 minutes last season. Yeesh. While he did make some adjustments (heading into last year, Woodbury averaged 6.1 and 6.0 fouls per 40 over his freshman and sophomore seasons), that's too many fouls. Something that continues to kill Woodbury's in game momentum.
Can Woodbury come into 2015-16 in fantastic shape with lighter feet, less grabby hands and a newly acquired skill set in the art of verticality? From all reports, it seems like he has, but will that be enough to keep Woodbury out of foul trouble as his minutes increase?
I suppose we'll see, but at least Woodbury thinks that the minutes increase can be done:
"As I told somebody the other day, I could’ve played 30-plus minutes last year," Woodbury said. "But it wasn’t called upon me. They didn’t ask me to do that, so I didn’t. This year, they’re calling upon me to do that, so I will."
Oh! Lest I forget, McCaffery didn't stop with the minutes for Woody. He also believes his senior center can average 10-12 rebounds a game -- which would double up his 5.2 per game average from last season.
If all of this does happen, Woodbury will have a case for being an All-Big Ten player and the Hawkeyes will surely surprise the nation.
Dom Uhl, Sophomore
Ah, finally we've made it to Dom Uhl, the most intriguing player on this Hawkeyes roster.
Heading into the 2015 season, the sophomore has added weight to his 6'9" frame -- so much as 25 pounds thanks to a new found indulgence in something called "food" and the weight room. He's going to be playing all over the court for McCaffery -- having the versatility to play the three, four and five positions. He is lined up to be the guy in the "Olaseni" role to off the bench and the anchor of what will surely be some super small, yet exciting secondary lineups. While he was somewhat of a perimeter oriented player that often deflected to his teammates last season, Uhl's game should grow exponentially this year with Aaron White and the aforementioned Olaseni's minutes up for grabs.
If he can be some sort of weird White/Uthoff crossbreed, the Hawkeyes are going to have a fantastic player to build around the next three years.
Dale Jones, Redshirt Junior
While at Tyler Junior College, Jones averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. He is a big body who can bang down low, but he also has a terrific jumper, something that will surely help spread the floor for his teammates. Jones is most definitely going to find minutes on the floor just based on his versatility and his size. He will surely know his role on this team and fill every aspect of that. I have a funny feeling he's going to be a fan favorite real quick.
There are questions here. But there are also immediate answers. It's not as though Iowa is bringing in four incoming freshman and throwing them out there. McCaffery and company have three veteran players and a giant wild card in this frontcourt. Can this group be better than what they've shown? Can they take the minutes left behind by Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni and use them to raise their own ceilings? Can Dom Uhl be the X-Factor that makes everything work? We shall soon see. But nevertheless, I can't wait to watch this veteran group -- if only to end my questionable anxiety.