Iowa basketball missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years last season. The only significant loss from last year's NIT team is four-year player Peter Jok who averaged 19.9 points as a senior for the Hawks.
With the departure of Jok, Fran McCaffery's team returns roughly 75-percent of their scoring offense from last year, which is one of the best in the Big Ten. This year's Iowa team should surpass their 19-15 record from last season with all the talent they have returning.
As the 2017-'18 season approaches, let's take a look at the three questions surrounding the Hawkeyes.
Three Questions for Iowa:
1. How will minutes be divided?
This isn't necessarily a bad problem to have, but it seems McCaffery is going to have to find a way to split up the minutes to keep his team content, especially in the frontcourt.
At the forward spot, 6-foot-9 sophomore Tyler Cook returns after averaging 12.3 points and 5.6 rebounds his first year. Those numbers were good enough to earn him a spot on the All-Big Ten freshman team. Classmate Cordell Pemsl is expected to be a force in the frontcourt for the Hawkeyes as he started 14 games as a freshman and averaged 8.9 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Iowa also welcomes back juniors Ahmad Wagner and Nicholas Baer - last year's Big Ten sixth man of the year - along with senior Dom Uhl. All three of these guys averaged more than 14.6 minutes per game last season, but they could see less time this year with the traffic in the frontcourt.
New to Iowa City are freshmen big men Jack Nunge and Luka Garza. Both standing at 6-foot-11, Nunge and Garza were top-150 recruits coming out of high school and proved on Iowa's Europe trip this summer they can compete at a high level. Garza especially as he averaged 24 points and ten rebounds in four games on the voyage, opening the eyes of teams around the Big Ten.
Seven players are going to compete for minutes in the frontcourt. That's a lot of bodies for two or three spots on the floor.
Like I said earlier, it's not a bad problem to have. Usually, these things work themselves out. But it's something to watch during the season.
2. Who will be the GUY?
Losing Peter Jok hurts and finding someone who can fill Jok's role is something won't be easy. The two leading returning scorers from last year's team - Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon - seem to be the go-to guys heading into the season.
Both have proved they can put the ball in the basket but will have to do it on a nightly basis if they want to go dancing in March.
Another player who will pick up the scoring slack is sophomore shooting guard Isaiah Moss. As a freshman, Moss averaged only 6.5 points but started 28 games and displayed flashes of his scoring potential throughout the year.
It's not something that needs to be answered right away, but there will come a time Iowa will need someone to step up and provide a bucket. Bohannon, Cook, and Moss seem to be the top three options at this point.
3. Can the Hawkeyes capitalize on their conference schedule?
Iowa lucked out with their draw for Big Ten play. Just take a look at how things fell for the Hawkeyes:
- Two-plays: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, OSU, PSU.
- One-plays, home: MSU, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin.
- One-plays, road: Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Rutgers.
With this schedule, the Hawkeyes don't have to travel to arguably three of the toughest environments in the Big Ten: Breslin Center (Michigan State), Mackey Arena (Purdue), and the Kohl Center (Wisconsin).
Illinois and Nebraska will be down this year, Maryland will be an intriguing matchup, and Rutgers won't be relevant for a while.
In the two-plays, Michigan and Minnesota will be hard to beat twice, and Indiana is never easy to beat in Bloomington. The Hawkeyes should knock off Penn State twice, and Ohio State's program is in rebuilding mode.
Iowa got a good deal in their conference draw. With a reasonable schedule like this, the Hawkeyes should find themselves in the top five of the Big Ten.