Some people drown their sorrows in adult beverages. Some people throw remote controls. I used to do both of those things, but I found writing to be a more productive outlet.
Iowa lost to Oregon in the Round of 32 on Monday, bowing out of the tournament long before most of us believed they would. Since none of us has time machines, we can’t go back and change the outcome. However, let’s attempt to take a look forward to next years Iowa basketball lineup and see what we are looking at.
First, we don’t know if Iowa will add any players from the transfer portal this offseason. I think there is a chance Iowa might do that, possibly looking for a shooting guard and a big man. But, let’s roll with what we know.
I will make a few key assumptions here, the first being that I believe Joe Wieskamp will be playing professionally next year. Whether that is in the NBA, the G League or overseas, I think Joe W has donned the Iowa jersey for the last time.
JACK NUNGE: If Nunge can do it physically, as well as mentally, I think he returns and is a starter. The mental note is not to say he can’t hack it, but Jack has dealt with far more than his fair share of adversity over the course of the last 18 months. An ACL injury and recovery is big in and of itself, but he lost his father tragically back in November and then suffered another knee injury in February, just as he was playing some of his best basketball. I think Jack has a career playing professionally in his future.
KEEGAN MURRAY: Murray is a star in the making. If he can add some more muscle and improve the consistency of his outside shot and midrange, he is a first-team All Big Ten performer in the making.
CJ FREDRICK: It will be Fredick’s turn to step into more of a ‘Batman’ role and leave the ‘Robin’ behind. He was dealing with Plantar Fasciitis for the majority of this season after dealing with foot issues during his freshman year. At times (read, when healthy) he oozes swagger and has the game to back it up. But he was a shell of himself for much of the past two months and it was visible, as he was far more deferential than you would want a shooter of his caliber to be. If he can get through next year healthy, he will average double figures for you and make a lot of three’s, but he is going to be a marked man from beyond the arc.
CONNOR MCCAFFERY: If he is healthy and wants to play another year of basketball, then he will be a starter. It will be interesting to see how life looks for him without Luka Garza, or if he can feed Jack Nunge to higher heights. We are all aware of Connor’s offensive limitations relative to shooting the ball, which could become more problematic without the best player in school history and two of the best three-point shooters flanking him. That said, given those offensive limitations, if Connor plays as many minutes next year as he did this year, I feel that will limit Iowa’s ceiling.* Tough player, had a great and important role with an all-time great at center, but life without Luka could be a challenge for Connor.
TONY PERKINS: This leads me to the biggest question…obviously, if Iowa lands a grad transfer of high caliber, you might see that player get plugged in. But since we don’t know what that could look like I am going to go with Tony Perkins here. He is a 6-4 slasher with great athletic ability. You know, the kind of player Iowa has rarely had and dearly needs in the NCAA tournament. He picked up some valuable March experience this year and will really need to work on his three-point shooting this offseason. However, developing into an average to above average shooter is something a lot of players can do at this level. Developing a 36 inch or better vertical is harder to do, but Perkins already has that.
PATRICK MCCAFFERY: I could see Patrick picking up the starting nod with Perkins coming off the bench, too. I think starting is one of the most overrated aspects to college hoops (tell that to the sixth man, right?) and I think Patrick and Tony will get their minutes regardless of who starts. Patrick needs more time in the weight room and more work on his outside shot, but mostly, developing more confidence around the rim. He has a tenacity to get to the rim and he, along with Keegan, will pick up larger players guarding them on the outside, which should allow them to get to the basket off the dribble drive quite often. This is an area where Patrick was caught in tweener or no man’s land a few times this year and I think another offseason of development will be great tonic. He has the game elements to be a very, very good player and something of a unique player with very few history analogs from Hawkeye past.
JOE TOUSSAINT: Perhaps more than any player, Toussaint’s development this offseason may be more crucial to next year’s success. Joe T is ‘OC’ at times, out of control, and he needs to dial things back from 11. He gets going so fast that he can’t stay on his feet. If he can mature in that area, collect himself and learn to control the chaos, then he and the Hawkeyes could turn some heads.
PAYTON SANDFORT: Think of an inch-taller version of freshman Joe Wieskamp. Well, fairer to say Joe Wieskamp-lite, as Joe W had more advanced ball skills at the same age and was a more prolific scorer. But Sandfort hit 45.8% of his threes in this shortened Iowa high school basketball season on 83 attempts, shot 56.2% from the line and was 44 of 46 from the free-throw line helping to lead a stacked Waukee team to a state championship. He will be in the rotation.
AHRON ULIS: There were tiles where Ulis looked the part this year, other times where he looked like a freshman who was seeing things for the first time. His minutes will jump up a great deal next season.
KRIS MURRAY: Kris’ offensive game is less refined than Keegan’s, but I wouldn’t call him a traditional power forward. He will likely develop a game to stretch bigger opponents outside to deeper waters and he is also very athletic.
JOSH OGUNDELE: Ogundele is probably carrying 20 pounds he won’t need or want by the time next season rolls around. He was unable to get to the states and take part in off-season workouts due to COVID-19, so he was playing behind the eight-ball there. With a full offseason in Iowa to work on his body as well as his game, we will get a chance to really have a first, fair look at him next year.
KNEE JERK THOUGHTS:
- This team will be better defensively than the 2021 team
- This team should be able to attack the rim more off the dribble
- This team could face a steady diet of zone until they prove themselves from beyond the arc
- I think this team could make the NCAA tournament without any additions*
- Connor’s offensive limitations could be more problematic for this lineup
- A lot is riding on Joe T maturing and playing within himself while still bringing the heat
- Patrick & Keegan’s out of season development could mean the difference between a 10/11 seed or a 7/8 seed
- A grad transfer or two could make the previous 1200 words somewhat moot