With North Carolina’s win over Gonzaga earlier this month, the 2016-’17 college basketball season officially came to a close. And with that development, attention quickly turned to next season and, for our site, next year’s Big Ten.
In an effort to help with that transition, we are taking a look at some of the biggest offseason storylines for each team. Here’s a look at the previous editions:
As such, here are the three most important things for the Iowa Hawkeyes this offseason.
Three Key Offseason Storylines For Iowa:
1. What kind of team can Iowa be next season?
Maybe this is more of a thought than a storyline, but the progression of how Iowa hopes to play will be an important one for next season. Admittedly, that’s a pretty vague and ambiguous statement, so I’ll dive into what I mean below.
Let’s start with the obvious. Last season, Iowa was Peter Jok’s team. Regardless of whether you thought Jok was as good as advertised, there’s no debating that Iowa was built around him. After all, he finished second in the league in percentage of team shots when on the floor and he played considerably more minutes than Nick Ward, who narrowly finished above him.
But, of course, Jok is now gone and Iowa will have to figure out new options for its offense. Maybe a more diverse approach works better, or maybe Iowa will once again choose to have one player dominate the team’s possessions.
Either way, Iowa needs to figure out what it’s going to do.
The key will be seeing progression from last year’s freshmen and an emergence from someone in the backcourt. The prime contender will be Jordan Bohannon, but can he take a considerable amount of the shots formerly taken by Jok? Fans will have to wait and see.
2. Feast or famine on the wing?
There are a lot of things to like about Iowa’s team for next season. There’s returning depth and talent, the team has young players looking to take a step forward, and it also has plenty of depth. And no spot on Iowa’s team may have more potential than its wing group next season.
Unfortunately, it could very easily bust as well.
I’ll be honest: I really like Iowa’s wing group. Like, really like it. I thought Nicholas Baer and Ahmad Wagner showed real improvement in their sophomore campaigns and players like Tyler Cook, Isaiah Moss, and Cordell Pemsl showed solid potential as freshmen. Very few teams in the Big Ten have anywhere near as many solid options as Iowa on the wing. Simply put, it’s a zoo of potential wing options for the Hawkeyes.
But more isn’t always better, especially in this sport. I say that because depth is criminally overrated in college basketball. If you’re giving me the option of an all-conference player or three solid players at a single position, I’m going to take the star player every single time.
Now, don’t get me wrong, depth is certainly important. However, when a starter can reasonably play more than 85 percent of a team’s minutes in a given game, it’s hard to believe depth is all that important. In fact, when a team has a ton of “depth”, it’s often a bigger sign about the team’s lack of starpower than its abundance of quality options.
In this case, I think Iowa has the potential to have the best of both worlds. If a player or two can turn into a good starter, this team could be scary on the wing. However, if the roster gets stuck with a rotating cast of players that are decent, but not great, Iowa could be in trouble. As such, this will be a huge storyline for next season.
3. Can Tyler Cook take the next step?
This point will, admittedly, overlap a bit with my first one, but there’s no debating that Iowa needs to see a star player emerge next season. The Hawkeyes can be decent (and maybe even good) without an All-Big Ten player. But, obviously, the margin for error gets far smaller when a team is trying to win at a high level without a top option.
While I believe there are several players on Iowa’s roster that could take the next step and become a star player next season, nobody is in a better place to do it than Tyler Cook. Not only because he likely has the most upside of any player on the roster, but also because he showed some major potential in his first season.
During last season, Cook averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game and showed some major promise on the offensive boards, finishing with the No. 21 offensive rebounding rate in the Big Ten. He also finished at 56.5 percent from two-point range, including an impressive 53.5 against top-tier opponents.
Unfortunately, Cook also had some injury and efficiency issues. He missed seven games early in the season and finished with just a 99.7 offensive rating. If Cook is going to become a star player for the Hawkeyes, he will need to stay on the floor and do a better job on a minute-to-minute basis for the team.
Depending on your perspective, there’s enough to believe Cook will be one of the league’s best players next season and enough to think he won’t be able to improve from decent to special in his second year. It should be interesting to watch.
The 2016-’17 season may have been a bit of a disappointment for Hawkeye fans, but with a young core set to return next fall, this is a team that could be set to do some damage in next year’s Big Ten. However, progression and the emergence of some star factors will be crucial. As such, it should be an exciting next few months for fans.