Next year in Iowa City we will find out if the Hawkeyes are ready to take the next step forward or if the team will fall back to their old ways. This past season was filled with inconsistency, that led to a middle of the pack finish in the Big Ten standings.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially because the Hawkeyes started off their season struggling in the non-conference and in the opening part of the Big Ten regular season. The team improved throughout the year, ultimately missing the NCAA Tournament, but earned a top seed in the NIT.
A strong finish leading to a 10-8 conference record and NIT berth was a pleasant surprise for Hawkeye fans. The way the team closed out the season will likely lead to high expectations next year for a still young squad.
Iowa will only have one senior on the roster next year that has played meaningful minutes, and that’s Dom Uhl, who was expected to make a leap forward as a player this season, but he struggled to start the season and lost his starting spot.
Uhl has the length to play some small ball four, he’s athletic enough on defense to battle with taller players and he has the ability to stretch the defense when knocking down open shots. We could see a bounce back year from him, he just needs a confidence boost.
Fran McCaffery will also have Ahmad Wagner, Brady Ellingson and Nicholas Baer in the fold as upperclassman. Each of those guys gave valuable contributions throughout last season. Baer developed into one of the better players on the team and will be counted on next season to be the team leader. Ellingson was the team’s best 3-point shooter last season at 47%. And Wagner brought toughness and rebounding.
McCaffery will have a blend of upperclassman and underclassman to mix and match next season. Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl all played important minutes throughout last season in their freshmen year.
Bohannon joined history this season by becoming one of only two freshmen in the nation in the last 25 years to notch more than 175 assists and 85 3-pointers. That led him to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team with teammate Cook.
Pemsl led the league in field-goal percentage. Moss contributed some scoring at 6.5 points per game. Four of Iowa’s freshmen started at least 14 games, that experience gained from this season should only help this team going forward.
With all eight of those guys back next season, Iowa will have the deepest team in the Big Ten. And let’s not forget about the two players McCaffery added during the recruiting process, Connor McCaffery and Luke Garza, both four-star recruits that could see some minutes in the rotation next year and add even more depth. Sophomore Ryan Kriener will also be battling for minutes.
The depth will soothe the task of replacing Peter Jok and the offensive production of 19.9 points per game. If Iowa can make strides on defense this offseason, and do their best to replace Jok’s scoring, an NCAA Tournament appearance appears likely for McCaffery’s squad.