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Iowa 2017-18 Preview: The Young Big Men Are Ready to be Unleashed

There’s no shortage of talent or bodies for Iowa in the paint

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.

Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the big guys for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are bursting at the seams with talented big guys and will look to Tyler Cook to set the tone in the paint.

'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Iowa’s Frontcourt:

  • 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Tyler Cook (Freshman), Nicholas Baer (Sixth Man of the Year)
  • Key Departures: None
  • Additions: Luka Garza, Jack Nunge
  • Top Player: Tyler Cook

Coming off a year where a flurry of freshman featured heavily in the Hawkeye rotation it is no surprise that Iowa is reloading, especially in their frontcourt.

Cook was a sought after recruit from St. Louis, Missouri and headlines an impressive group of big men. Iowa natives Cordell Pemsl and Nicholas Baer return to continue producing in high leverage situations. Factor in the bilingual Dom Uhl, grinder Ahmad Wagner, and blue-collar Ryan Kriener, and the Iowa frontcourt is chock full of reliable options for Fran McCaffery to pick from.

An already loaded stable of big men received reinforcements with highly touted center, Luka Garza, deciding to don the black and gold as well as forward Jack Nunge choosing to lace up his shoes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Starting Rotation

The aforementioned Cook will find himself in the starting lineup once again. He started in 26 of the 27 games he was healthy enough to participate in. When he was in the game, Cook averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while getting to the line an average of 4.5 times per game. Number five also provided his fair share of highlight reel dunks and was never afraid to display emotion in big moments.

Starting alongside Cook will be either Ahmad Wagner or Cordell Pemsl. Wagner featured in the starting lineup 18 times last season including in 10 Big Ten contests. The junior from Ohio only logged 16 minutes per game but was often called upon to be a defensive stopper in crucial moments.

The other half is Iowa’s large adult son, Pemsl, whose name was in the starting lineup 14 times last season. Pemsl was nothing but efficient as he set the school record for field goal percentage by a freshman with 61.7 percent, good for 29th nationally. Averaging a touch under nine points and five rebounds per game, Pemsl flashed raw talent and another off-season of workouts and drills will serve the sophomore well.

Bench Rotation

The reigning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, Nicholas Baer will be looking to repeat as his brand of energy and ability to get into game mode quickly will once again be utilized by Coach McCaffery. The redshirt junior averaged 23.8 minutes per game off the bench and displayed an ability to mix it up down low and fly around on the perimeter.

Baer will be looking to surpass the 40 percent three-point shot mark after clocking in with a 39.7 percent last year. He also lead the Hawkeyes in both blocks and steals, something that has only been done in a single season by three other players in Iowa history.

After Baer, senior Dom Uhl will look to bounce back after a rough junior year. The German-born forward is looking to reclaim his shot from beyond the arc and catapult his 23.8 percent mark closer to his sophomore season’s rate of 45 percent.

Sophomore Ryan Kriener played an increasingly larger role as the previous season went on. He went from getting garbage time minutes in the non-conference to providing a spark in a big win over Purdue.

The freshman duo of Luka Garza and Jack Nunge will add to the youthful frontcourt energy for the Hawkeyes. Garza comes to Iowa City from Washington DC as a top rated recruit. Garza’s imposing six foot 11 inch frame masks his ability to be an effective perimeter big, a wrinkle the Iowa offense can utilize to full effect.

Nunge also has the ability to use his tall body out on the perimeter. He shot 40 percent from three-point range during his senior year while being a finalist for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award. Look for both of the freshman to contribute as the Hawkeyes look to add length and space to their offense.


The Iowa Hawkeyes are set-up well for this upcoming season the for the upcoming seasons. Stellar frontcourt recruiting has allowed the Hawkeyes to reap the benefits of young and fun talent. As the youngsters take another year to improve on their development, upperclassmen role players will add impact minutes and productions for the Hawkeyes of the present.