Iowa faces a heavy hit trying to rebuild this program without the help of star forward Aaron White next season. As we may hear his name called on draft day, Aaron White's career for the Hawkeyes has been one of the best by any Iowa basketball player in a long time. However, despite losing White and dominant forward Gabriel Olaseni, Iowa should be just fine next season. Here are five reasons we will see the Hawkeyes back in the Field of 68 next March.
Here are five reasons to believe Iowa will return to the NCAA Tournament.
1. Jarrod Uthoff is Ready for a Breakout Year
The 6'8" forward and Iowa native has been impressive for the Hawkeyes during his two seasons in Iowa City. After transferring from Wisconsin his freshman year, Uthoff played solid ball for the Hawkeyes, averaging 7.6 points his sophomore year and 12.4 his junior year. Now without White as the go-to scorer, a whole new load of responsibility lies in the hands of Uthoff.
Jarrod Uthoff is a particularly dangerous player because, just like Aaron White, he can beat you in a number of ways on the offensive end of the floor. While he certainly has the size to beat you in the paint, he's also quick enough to make effective cuts and get to the bucket for easy baskets. Uthoff has a sweet stroke from range, and if he starts knocking a few down, he can be tough to beat. Look for a huge season out of the developing forward.
2. Iowa's Backcourt Should Be Very Good
Though Indiana's combo of Ferrell and Blackmon may arguably be the best in the conference next season, it would be unwise to sleep on Iowa. Returning guard Mike Gesell will run the point for the Hawkeyes and will look to take his team back to the big dance. Gesell averaged 7.4 points and 4.0 assists per game for Iowa last season. He loves the big moments, and arguably his best performance of the season came in Chapel Hill when the Hawkeyes were able to pull a huge upset over the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Iowa will also look to utilize Anthony Clemmons and Peter Jok as backcourt threats. Clemmons, though only averaging 20 minutes per game last season, it starting to emerge as a reliable player and scorer off the bench. His 4.8 points and 1.9 assists per game should only go up next season with more playing time. Jok's three point shooting should play a major role in Iowa's success next season, and when he gets to the line, he's one of the best in the league. Also look out for incoming freshman Isaiah Moss who's expected to have a solid season with the Hawkeyes.
3. Adam Woodbury Is Set To Improve
Adam Woodbury's play in the post was often times frustrating for Iowa Hawkeye fans. Give his size, Woodbury has the ability to go after almost any center in the Big Ten conference. Last season was a small step in the right direction for the big man in Iowa City. While Woodbury averaged a solid 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, he also led his team in fouls at 2.7 per contest. His free throw shooting took a step back last season, as he went from 71% his sophomore year to 57% his junior year.
4. Iowa Knows How to Win on The Road
For whatever reason, Fran McCaffery's squad had a knack for getting huge road victories in the Big Ten Conference last season. The one non-conference road victory that was huge for Iowa was the one against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In conference play, Iowa took down Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota on the road last season. It seems that the Hawkeyes, who are dominated by upperclassmen, have the composure to stay relaxed and play their game when faced with a hostile crowd.
The one area of concern for Iowa is home court advantage. The Hawkeyes were unable to get big home wins against some of the conferences best opponents. While teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin were likely favored in the first place, even in Iowa City, pulling out just one of those victories would have paid huge dividends to the Hawkeyes. Iowa had an 11 point lead on the Spartans at home before being outscored by 25 in the second half. That can't happen next season.
5. Fran McCaffery Gets it Done
Ever since coming to Iowa in 2010, Fran McCaffery has helped turn the program in the right direction. Iowa has made consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since 2006, and last season's first round victory against Davidson marked Iowa's first NCAA Tournament win since 2001 where the Hakweyes beat the Creighton Jays.
If the Hawkeyes make it to the NCAA Tournament next season, it would mark the first "three-peat" in appearances since 1991-93. Season by season, Fran McCaffery is showing the nation that he is a great coach and that Iowa deserves respect as a great basketball program in the Big Ten Conference.