Key Departures: Luka Garza (Grad); Joe Wieskamp (NBA); CJ Fredrick (–>Kentucky); Jack Nunge (–>Xavier)
New In Town: Filip Rebraca (<–N. Dakota); Payton Sandfort (#170); Riley Mulvey (#203)
State of the Program:
Another year and another Fran McCaffery led squad that largely ignores the defensive end of the floor and ultimately loses the first weekend in March in their attempt to simply outscore their opponent. I’m thankful I have McCaffery to be the real life example year after year that if you ignore defense you don’t win in March, plain and simple. The Hawkeyes finished the season ranked 75th on D, and lost to 7 seed Oregon in the 2nd round giving up 95 points. It was quite possibly the most predictable result of the entire tournament. All of this happened even when Iowa had the NPOY and 2x All-American Luka Garza being the most dominate force in college basketball. A real shame. Yet and still, McCaffery will don the Hawkeye sidelines once again, and he will lose Garza, as well as 2nd leading scorer and 2x All-Conference wing Joe Wieskamp. That’s nearly 40 ppg in those 2 that left town, so a huge challenge is forthcoming as replacing that high level of talent is difficult even for the elite programs. The good news is there’s a large young core with which McCaffery can build around, headlined by F Keegan Murray (SO), G Joe Toussaint (JR), and F Patrick McCaffery (SO) as well as veteran G’s Jordan Bohannon (SR) and Connor McCaffery (SR). Murray has a chance to develop into a star after bursting on the scene a year ago, and he is projected by many as a 2022 NBA draft selection. Beyond him McCaffery will be desperately looking for scorers and playmakers.
Incoming to help fill the void left behind by Garza is transfer big man Filip Rebraca (JR) out of N. Dakota. He was a nightly double-double threat that has game with his back to the basket in the post, facing up in the mid-range, as well as off the bounce attacking the basket. He was All-Summit a year ago averaging 17/8 and will come in and start alongside Murray in the frontcourt. 6’7” Freshman F Payton Sandfort (#170) comes in as one of the better catch and shoot wings in the class that I’ve seen, as his shot is as pure as they come at this level. He’s not the strongest, quickest or most explosive, but his jumper will earn him playing time and as he develops he could become a lethal weapon for this Hawkeye offense in the years to come. He will battle returning SO’s Kris Murray (SO) and Patrick McCaffery for backup time at the 3-4 spots this year. Last addition is 6’11 C Riley Mulvey (#203) who will likely be buried behind Rebraca and Josh Ogundele (SO) at the 5 spot. He is mostly a project at this point but has decent athleticism and Iowa has been able to develop big men in the past so I would expect him to have a role in a couple of years. Along with Ogundele and the Murray brothers, Iowa also will feature G’s Tony Perkins (SO) and Ahron Ulis (SO) as part of a huge SO class. Perkins and Ulis played sparingly last season but with the loss of Fredrick and Wieskamp they will step in to fill the void in the backcourt off the bench.
Prediction: 12th Big Ten (NR)
This Hawkeye team is young, with the exception of Bohannon and C. McCaffrey and will be far less lethal offensively than they were a year ago. They have some promising young players but once again they will reflect the leadership of Fran McCaffrey. That will mean they will struggle defensively and fire up a ton of 3’s. The problem with that is they lost 4 of their 5 best shooters with only Bohannon returning as a proven threat. I see this group struggling not only due to the loss of Garza and Wieskamp, but the continuing lack of Defense and the lack of perimeter shooting, which they typically rely on to make up for their defensive inefficiencies. Keegan Murray has a chance to prove he can play in the league but likely won’t get to do so on a national stage. That may be a blessing in disguise if they can get him to return next year for a 3rd season, as they will have a much better outlook after this young group gets a season without Garza under its belt. They relied on him so heavily it will be a tough transition to life beyond him, and losing the #2 guy at the same time only exacerbates the challenge. The lack of playmakers and scorers combined with the historical lack of emphasis on defense puts the Hawkeyes in the bottom half of the Conference and on the outside looking in come March.