Inexperienced Iowa seeking NCAA again
IOWA CITY — Iowa goes from being one of the nation’s most experienced teams to being one of its youngest.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Hawkeyes will take a major step back in 2016-17.
Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons and Adam Woodbury are gone after leading Iowa to three-straight NCAA Tournaments — something it hadn’t accomplished in more than two decades. What remains is a potential Big Ten player of the year in Peter Jok and an intriguing yet largely untested supporting cast.
Jok, a senior shooting guard who averaged 16.1 points per game in 2015, should get as many shots as any player in the conference now that Uthoff is in the pros.
Gesell’s starting point guard job will likely go to sophomore Christian Williams, who is 6-foot-5 with a long reach and a mandate to get stronger and learn the playbook.
Senior Dale Jones, junior Dom Uhl, sophomore Ahmad Wagner and highly-touted freshman Tyler Cook will be counted on to replace Uthoff and Woodbury’s production in the frontcourt, and super-sub Nicholas Baer should play a bigger role after an offseason spent working on his strength and his conditioning.
“We’ve got too many guys, and that’s a good problem to have. A lot of times you get to this point and you look and say, ‘Ok, well, these three guys are definitely not playing.’ I don’t have that with this team,” seventh-year coach Fran McCaffery said. “I don’t have a mistake maker. I don’t have a guy who’s confused every day. I don’t have a guy who’s out of shape.”
Does McCaffery have enough guys to make it back to the NCAA Tournament? Not even he knows for certain heading into November. Here are some of keys to consider as Iowa undergoes its biggest roster overhaul in years:
McCaffery typically doesn’t try to over-hype his freshmen. But the 6-foot-9 Cook was ranked as the 38th-best player in the country by EPSN as a senior, and he’ll likely slide into a starting role as a power forward.
“I think he’s an impact player, certainly on our team, in our league, and on a national level. I think he’s that good,” McCaffery said.
Uhl is one of the more unique players in the Big Ten. At 6-foot-9 and just 220 pounds, Uhl is built like Uthoff and he shares many of his former teammate’s characteristics. Uhl can drive to the basket, block shots and hit open jumpers, though not at the level of Uthoff. But Uhl is still learning the game, and if he can continue to develop he might just turn out to be a capable sidekick for Jok, a traditional shooting guard.
WILLIAMS AND WAGNER
Williams won’t be a coach on the floor like Gesell was. But he’s got more than a few inches on Gesell, and last season he displayed a rare ability to glide through traffic and get buckets over bigger defenders. Wagner, who at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, is built like a Kirk Ferentz-style tight end. He held his own when given a shot in 2015-16, and as a freshman rarely seemed rattled during any of McCaffery’s infamous sidelines rants. Look for Wagner to emerge as a leader this season.
The young Hawkeyes will be tested early . They host Seton Hall on Nov. 17, and play Virginia and either Providence or Memphis in a Thanksgiving tournament in Florida. Iowa then plays at Notre Dame, hosts Iowa State and faces Northern Iowa on a neutral floor in Des Moines.