2021-22 ITH Season Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes
With the start of college basketball season coming in early November, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, our team previews continue with a look at Iowa.
A new era of Iowa basketball begins this fall without Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp.
Garza, the national player of the year last season, is now on a two-way contract with the Detroit Pistons. Wieskamp also landed a two-way contract as a rookie with the San Antonio Spurs.
There will be no replacing such a productive duo for Fran McCaffery, who still hasn’t led Iowa past the second round of the NCAA tournament in 11 seasons.
In addition to losing Garza and Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick transferred to Kentucky and Jack Nunge transferred to Xavier. All of those losses should set Iowa back significantly in McCaffery’s 12th season.
The headlining returnee is sixth-year senior guard Jordan Bohannon. Entering his final season, Bohannon already holds the Iowa records for 3-pointers made, games played and assists. Last season, Bohannon shot only 38.9 percent from the field and averaged 10.6 points to go along with 4.4 assists per game. He’s known as one of the best shooters in the league and will likely spend a good amount of time off the ball this season.
Junior Joe Touissant started 20 games as a freshman, but came off the bench last season. He should be the starting point guard and needs to cut down on turnovers if he wants to keep the job. Touissant isn’t much of a shooter, but he has the speed and playmaking ability to create some opportunities for others.
Connor McCaffery is likely to start alongside Bohannon and Touissant. He underwent surgery on both of his hips in the offseason but was healthy for the start of practice. He was 10th in the Big Ten last season in assist rate, but isn’t much of an offensive threat.
Sophomores Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis should be the two main backcourt options off of the bench. Perkins, an Indianapolis native, played in 24 games last season. He’s a capable athlete who should be an upgrade defensively when he’s on the floor. Ulis is the younger brother of former Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis. He could eventually be Iowa’s point guard, but is stuck behind Bohannon and Touissant for now.
Iowa’s best player may be 6-foot-8 sophomore Keegan Murray. Murray averaged 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 18 minutes per game last season. He was the Big Ten’s seventh-best offensive rebounder as a freshman. Murray shot 64.5 percent on 2s in conference play, which was second-best in the league.
Defensively, Murray was one of the few bright spots for the Hawkeyes last season. He ranked third in the conference in block percentage despite only being 6-foot-8.
North Dakota transfer Filip Rebraca averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds last season in the Summit League. The 6-foot-9 center can also step out and hit the occasional 3-pointer. He’ll likely start at the five with sophomore Josh Ogundele and freshman Riley Mulvey battling for backup minutes.
Kris Murray, Keegan’s brother, and Patrick McCaffery will play backup minutes at the forward spots. McCaffery had a productive season last winter as a redshirt freshman. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Kris Murray played sparingly as a freshman, but should see a better chance for minutes this year with the roster attrition.
Bottom Line: Iowa will take a significant step back this winter without Garza and Wieskamp. Bohannon and Murray should be a solid 1-2 punch, but the Hawkeyes will be relying on unproven contributors to fill significant roles. Most of the preseason projections have Iowa slotted at 9th or 10th entering the season. That would likely put the Hawkeyes on the outside of the NCAA tournament in McCaffery’s 12th season.
Quotable: “Kind of we all knew the last couple years what we were going to try to accomplish, who was playing, who was going to get the bulk of the minutes, who was going to take most of the shots. Now we have a different team. It’s a little bit smaller, but we do have length and athleticism. I think we have great depth. We do have two older guys that we’re going to rely on for leadership, and that’s Connor McCaffery and Jordan Bohannon. After that, we have a lot of youth. I think we have great character, great chemistry. It’s going to be a fun ride in that sense.” – Fran McCaffery at Big Ten media day last week.