IOWA CITY, Iowa — Most of the players who led Iowa men’s basketball to three straight NCAA tournament appearances and a pair of postseason wins now reside in the history books.
It’s a new era in Iowa City, with only three players left who averaged at least 14 minutes of action last year. Shooting guard Peter Jok is the showcase performer after putting up 16.1 points a game last year. Junior forward Dom Uhl (6.0 points) and sophomore Nicholas Baer (4.8 points) are back, but the remaining pieces are inexperienced role players from last year or the five new scholarship freshmen.
With only three scholarship upperclassmen, dividing minutes will be an issue for this club. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who has led the Hawkeyes to the postseason five consecutive years, said he’s unsure if he’ll redshirt any players this year. The rotation remains in flux.
“We’re still trying to see who plays really good with who,” Jok said. “I think coach has figured that out already, but he’s trying to get everybody to be involved.”
Let’s take a closer look at this team:
5 things to know
- Freshman forward Tyler Cook is something special. He’s a Rivals’ 4-star recruit from St. Louis Chaminade, where he combined with Duke signee Jayson Tatum to win the Missouri Class 5 state title. At 6-foot-9, 253 pounds, Cook is big enough to play in the post. But his freakish explosiveness is what sets him apart. Look for Cook to make an immediate impact on this team.
- Jok, a senior, has 872 career points and he’s likely to become the school’s 46th player to reach 1,000 points. If Jok matches the 514 points he scored last season, he’ll finish No. 16 all-time.
- Iowa committed just 10.3 turnovers a game last season, the lowest since it became a statistic back in 1980. The previous low was set a year earlier at 11.1.
- The last six seasons, Iowa is 50-7 when scoring 80 points or more. The Hawkeyes are 61-2 when holding opponents to less than 61 points.
- Iowa’s rebounding margin took a major dip in 2015-16 with only a plus-0.8 edge. The Hawkeyes carried sizable advantages in 2014-15 (plus-4.1), 2013-14 (plus-7.0) and 2012-13 (plus-4.7).
Point guard, point guard, point guard. Sophomore Christian Williams and freshman Jordan Bohannon vie to replace former four-year starter Mike Gesell. Both players have different skill sets — Williams is 6-foot-6 and long, Bohannon is 6-1 and more of a shooter — but both will get plenty of opportunities to see the floor.
In the Hawkeyes’ exhibition against Regis, Williams opened the game and played 23 minutes. He scored 11 points, dished five assists and had no turnovers. Bohannon played 20 minutes, scored eight points, had three assists and two turnovers. Williams was 5-for-6 from the field, while Bohannon was 2-for-8.
“I thought Christian was really good, and I thought Jordan did a lot of really good things as well,” McCaffery said. “I thought Jordan picked us up when he came in the first time and scored seven quick points. I thought Christian in the second half was spectacular. So I think those two guys give me great confidence moving forward.”
Key number: 392
Iowa lost four starters who totaled 392 starts over their four-year careers. That includes second-team All-American Jarrod Uthoff, career record-holder for starts in Adam Woodbury, a 1,000-point scorer in Gesell and top defender Anthony Clemmons. It’s unrealistic to expect this squad will win road games at Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue and Michigan like last year’s version. It’s going to take time and patience as Iowa’s players gain experience.
Key performer: Peter Jok
The 6-foot-6 senior guard averaged 16.1 points last season, ranking eighth in the Big Ten, and tied for sixth in steals (1.3). In league-only action, Jok was sixth at 17.3 points, third in steals (1.5), fourth in free-throw percentage (85.1), fourth in 3-point shooting percentage (42.3) and fourth in 3-pointers made per game (2.6). He was named second-team all-Big Ten after the season.
Jok scored 20 or more points 11 times. In a 29-point effort against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, Jok put up 15 consecutive points for Iowa. He declared for the NBA draft last March but did not sign with an agent and returned to the team in May.
Season prediction: NCAA/NIT bubble
This energetic yet youthful group of players will face both the highs and lows that accompany Big Ten basketball. There’s enough spunk and talent to upset a few ranked teams at home this season. Their inexperience likely will cause them to drop a couple of head-scratchers.
I see this team on the bubble, finishing the nonconference schedule at 9-4. Then in Big Ten play, I see the Hawkeyes going through several different streaks and finishing 9-9. Their postseason destiny will be decided at the Big Ten Tournament.