With a number of question marks heading into next season, there is only one thing that Iowa knows has to happen in order to make it back to the NCAA Tournament: Jarrod Uthoff has to be good. Maybe "good" won't even cut it. He'll have to be great and emerge as a prominent scorer, defender, and all-around player for Fran McCaffery's squad next season.
Uthoff transferred into the Iowa program after playing one season of basketball with the Wisconsin Badgers. Bo Ryan placed severe restrictions on which schools were allowed to contact him, and even though he ended up at Iowa. He had to sit out and pay his way during the 2012-13 season.
Since then, Uthoff hasn't looked back, and despite the showering of "boos" upon entering the Kohl Center, his days with Wisconsin are long gone. After playing just 18 minutes per contest his sophomore year, Uthoff got an average of 10 more minutes of playing time per game his junior year. He's become a focal point for the Hawkeyes, and his ability to stretch out defenses makes him an asset on the court.
Uthoff's 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season were certainly promising. Arguably one of his best performances came during a tough loss on the road to Northwestern. The junior scored 25 points with a season-high 5 three point field goals. Though the Hawkeyes fell short, Uthoff's play kept a struggling Iowa team in the game until the final buzzer sounded.
That kind of production is something that the Hawkeyes will need consistently out of their soon-to-be senior Uthoff. Do they expect him to put up 25 points per game? Certainly not, but he's going to need to be the star for Fran McCaffery who picks his team up when they're down. This holds true, especially for an Iowa team that has a lot of question marks going into the 2015-16 season.
Aaron White's departure is difficult for the Hawkeyes. Both his scoring ability and senior leadership are tough to replace, and Uthoff will have his hands full picking up the slack. The backcourt for the Hawkeyes looks to be solid, but Mike Gesell will have to play at a very high level in order to compete with some of the other point guards in the Big Ten. Adam Woodbury could be a liability if he doesn't develop. He has the size to compete in the post, but his sometimes clumsy play can lead Iowa down the wrong path.
Bottom Line: Uthoff will have to be good. Without White on the floor, there are plenty of points to go around, and if Jarrod Uthoff takes his fair share, Iowa could be in business next season. Though the Hawkeyes can't solely rely on his play to get back to the Big Dance, they can use him as an exemplar and a leader for a team that could be considered rough around the edges come next fall.
Just as Aaron White went from 12 points to 16 points per game his junior to senior year, expect Uthoff to not only light up the scoreboard, but to lead his team to the next level.