In the months leading up to the 2021-’22 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a series called the ‘BTPowerhouse 25,’ which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.
Today’s edition will take a brief look at Connor McCaffery of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa was expected to make a run for the Big Ten Title last season, as well as a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Things didn’t quite pan out for the Hawkeyes, finishing third in the Big Ten and getting bounced by Oregon in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Now Iowa will return a considerably decimated roster after losing Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick and Jack Nunge.
‘BTPowerhouse 25’ - Tied-No. 20 Connor McCaffery:
- Eligibility: Redshirt Senior
- Career Totals: 100 games, 2324 minutes, 451 points, 274 rebounds, 345 assists
- 2020-’21 Averages: 22.8 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 0.6 SPG
- Positional Role: Guard
To say last year was disappointing for Iowa would be an understatement. Head coach Fran McCaffery clearly had his most talented roster yet, one of the conference’s best players, a ton of shooting and one of the most experienced and balanced teams in the league. Missing out on a Big Ten Title and then getting bounced in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was not what was expected for Iowa.
Things won’t get any better this season as Iowa will need to replace a good majority of their offensive production from last year and are bringing in a thin 2021 recruiting class that includes a pair of three-star commits, as well as North Dakota transfer Filip Rebraca. That means Iowa will likely need to build on the leftover talent that remains from last season, including guard Jordan Bohannon. Past Bohannon the Hawkeyes will likely turn to coaches son Connor McCaffery, who is second to only Bohannon in playing time among returning players.
The 6’5” guard has started 62 games the past two seasons and will be now in his fifth season with the Hawkeyes. McCaffery will anchor the backcourt alongside Bohannon, who will likely be Iowa’s main offensive threat this season. Expect McCaffery to spread the ball around as he’s one of the best passers on Iowa’s roster. Last year he averaged 3.6 assists per game while minimalizing his turnovers.
Another area that McCaffery will help Iowa is on the defensive side of the ball. The guard brings some size to the backcourt and has proven to be a versatile defender. That will be big for Iowa as the team’s offense will likely take a major step back this winter and they’ll need to shore up a defense that ranked 246th in points per game in 2020-21.
Areas for Improvement
As mentioned above, Iowa is losing a good majority of their offensive production from last season. That’s problematic on it’s own, but it doesn’t help that a key player like McCaffery took a massive step backwards on that side of the ball last year. In his fourth season in Iowa, the guard saw his three point percentage drop from 34% to 27.7%, while also only hitting 58.6% from the free throw line after never shooting below 75% in his first three seasons. McCaffery’s 3.3 points per game was his lowest total since his freshman season when he played in only four games.
If McCaffery can’t improve shooting the ball it’ll prove problematic, especially with no currently proven options behind him and Bohannon. Iowa needs the returning talent to step up if they want to return to the postseason and if McCaffery can’t piece things together Iowa could be in trouble.
McCaffery will continue to start and see plenty of playing time for the Hawkeyes this winter. He’ll prove to be a capable defender and spread the ball around, putting up a solid assist/turnover ratio while making contributions on the court that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. But can he score?
That’s going to be a big question as Iowa will need him to step up to make up for the loss of guys like Fredrick and Wieskamp. Iowa was a lights out shooting team last year and McCaffery’s numbers pale in comparison. Even if he returns to what he did two years ago, it’ll still be a drop off. Regardless, the Hawkeyes will need to see McCaffery find some life offensively if they want to compete in the Big Ten.