I feel like I'm beating a dead horse at this point in the off season, but any discussion about "Iowa" "Basketball" and the "2015 season" has to start somewhere. That somewhere just so happens to be with Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni now playing in sponsored jerseys on a hemisphere I probably will never travel to.
The departures of these two players are especially important for clarifying the top storylines for Iowa's upcoming season in both the Big Ten and non-conference play. Those are giant Air Force's to fill and every paying member of "In Fran We Trust" nation knows it. But the question remains:
Who in the name of Adam Haluska is going to take the next step for this kind of young Iowa team?
Smart money is on Jarrod Uthoff because, duh:
It's easy to see Adam Woodbury getting his Joakim Noah/Emotional Leader/Zero Chill/Kanye West on Open Mic Night on:
Andrew Fleming is trying to shoot/drive/kick his way into every corn-loving, meat and potato craving Iowan's heart:
Dom Uhl is my early favorite for biggest leap... as long as he shed his Eeyore-esque snake skin in the off season. Incoming freshman Brandon Hutton might as well throw on some pads and walk-on to the football team because of how hyped he is to shut down opposing Big Ten players right now (after all, Kirk loves a solid walk-on!). Peter Jok is probably still Peter Jok, unless he remembered how to be the Peter Jok he was before his high school knee injury. And Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons are still around manning the whole damned thing.
It isn't the best lineup. It's also not the worst.
I can see something special happening. I can also see the middle of the road.
Honestly, Iowa is probably going to be a lot like McDonald's breakfast in the grand scheme of breakfast choices. It looks intriguing enough, even delicious to start (The convenience! The Price! The syrup bun!)...but it's got nothing on a three-egg omelet, a nice cup of coffee, some fresh strawberries and a side of pancakes (aka Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue).
So Long, So Long
Holy Stretch Armstrong! Have I (or any other Iowa writer) mentioned how much McCaffery loves long, multi-positional players? Because it's never been more prevalent. Iowa only has five players under 6'5", with three of them coming in at 6'4". While there isn't another seven footer outside of Woody, six other players are checking in at the 6'7" mark.
Most of those players can play 2-4, with a couple able to switch to the five in super fun small lineups that I've built in my head. Ultimately, this gives Fran the ability to get super creative during the out of conference schedule to find lineups that can both score and crowd driving lanes, block shots and muck it up near the hoop. It's going to be Iowa's biggest asset.
It's an obvious one, but it's what plagued the Hawkeyes last year. There were more times than I can honestly count when Iowa would go into halftime with a nice lead and all of the momentum (for those of us that still believe in it) and then completely squandered it by going three, or four, or five, or six minutes to start the half without scoring a bucket outside of the free throw line.
This happened to start games too.
Just go down the line of Iowa games and you can pick out the ones where droughts and inconsistent offense killed the team. Just take a look back at the Texas, Syracuse (god that Syracuse game), Northern Iowa (44-points!), and Wisconsin games. It's not pretty.
If Iowa can limit those droughts (after all, it's college basketball, they're to be expected) and find one of those go to scorers that seems to get buckets when the offense just isn't shaking out the way the Hawkeye staff is wanting it to (here's to you, Uthoff), the Hawkeyes could very well surprise a lot of teams during the Big Ten season.
If Iowa wants to stay among the top of the Big Ten they're going to need to have a consistently big effort from their seniors Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff. But the bus doesn't stop there. From among the young but talented roster depth, another player or two is going to have to provide some offensive relief. It's fair to say by now that we know what we are going to get on the defensive end from a McCaffery coached team. Long, athletic, scrappy and more than likely a Top-30 unit as a whole. That's a constant at this point. But offensively, consistency is key and will be the deciding factor on if Iowa can be a sleeping conference contender or just another middle-tiered team.