The Iowa Hawkeyes received a tough blow to their playing rotation just days from the start of the 2017-18 season.
Over the weekend, junior forward and co-captain Nicholas Baer — last season’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Season — broke a bone in his left pinkie finger during a practice and is expected to miss between 3-4 weeks, per an athletics department release.
What does this mean for the Hawkeyes? Well, the injury won’t require surgery, which is good news, and Iowa doesn’t have a particularly tough early season slate. They host Chicago State, Alabama State, and Grambling State to begin the season before heading to the Caribbean for the Cayman Islands Basketball Classic.
However, if Baer’s injury extends into that fourth week, then head coach Fran McCaffery could be without a key piece when the Hawkeyes take on Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and then Penn State and Indiana to begin conference play. If the injury does last four weeks, then Baer might return in time for the Hawkeyes’ rivalry matchup against Iowa State on Dec. 7.
"Nicholas has played great in preseason practices and this is an unfortunate setback," McCaffery said in the release. "We expect Nicholas to make a full recovery and look forward to him rejoining his teammates on the court soon."
Baer was a valuable asset as a sophomore for the Hawkeyes in 2016-17 while leading Iowa in rebounds (5.8), steals (1.4), and blocks (1.3), also chipping in 7.5 points in 23.8 minutes per contest. With Iowa fighting to finish above .500 last season, Baer played his best during Iowa’s four-game win streak heading into the conference tournament, which included back-to-back Top 25 wins against Maryland and Wisconsin. He capped it off with a 20 point, 10 rebound performance against Penn State in the regular season finale.
Baer played in both preseason wins against William Jewell College and Belmont Abbey. However, he played only nine minutes against William Jewell and went 0-for-2 from the field with zero rebounds, steals, assists, or blocks.
The Bettendorf, Iowa native bounced back against Belmont Abbey with 9 points on 3-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range. He added three rebounds.
The Hawkeyes begin their regular season slate against Chicago State on Friday at 8 p.m. They will look to improve on a 19-15 finish last year, which saw the Hawkeyes bounced by Indiana in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa made an appearance in the NIT and beat South Dakota, 87-75, in the first round before exiting in the second round with a 94-92 loss to TCU.