Iowa played their first open-to-the-public game on Sunday (their exhibition game with Creighton last week was a "closed gym" game) against the Quincy Hawks. The outcome was never in any doubt -- Quincy is a Division II team, after all -- and given the disparity in quality between the two teams, there's only so much that we can read into the game. That said, was it fun to see Iowa basketball again? Yes. Was it fun to see them playing closer to the sort of team Fran has talked about building since he arrived at Iowa? Yep. Was it fun to see Iowa actually look like a team with good depth again? Oh god yes.
Speaking of that depth... McCaffery has talked about his desire to field a deep team and play as many as ten guys in a rotation this year and Sunday was our first glimpse at how that might work. It broke down like this:
STARTING FIVE: Gesell / Marble / White / McCabe / Woodbury
"SECOND UNIT": Clemmons / Oglesby / May / Basabe / Olaseni
There were a few times during the game when Iowa literally swapped out the five starters for the five guys on the "second unit" and that was fun in a hockey line change sort of way. Obviously, that probably won't happen too often and there will be a blend of guys between the starting five and the "second unit" (which was also the case on Sunday), but it's fascinating to see an Iowa team with so many capable players. It's easy to see all ten of those guys playing meaningful minutes for Iowa this season, which is definitely exciting.
In terms of minutes played, those ten guys all played between 11 and 20 minutes Sunday. Adam Woodbury played the fewest minutes (11), while Roy Devyn Marble played the most (20). Mike Gesell and Josh Oglesby each played 19 minutes; everyone else played around 15 minutes. Of course, there are two notable exclusions from that ten-man rotation: freshmen Pat Ingram and Kyle Meyer. Both played 10 minutes on Sunday, with most of that action coming near the end of the game in blowout duty. That would seem to mark them out as strong candidates for a redshirt this season, although in the post-game presser, McCaffery again indicated he was only looking to redshirt one player this year:
Q: Exhibition game, you didn’t make a decision on redshirting?
COACH McCAFFERY: Yeah, probably. But I haven’t talked to anybody yet. So we’ll probably redshirt somebody.
Q: Would it be more than one, maybe?
COACH McCAFFERY: Probably not. Probably not.
The smart money still seems to be on Meyer being the recipient of that redshirt (based on past comments and the presumed lack of playing time for him in the frontcourt), but it may not be a bad idea to redshirt Ingram as well if he's not likely to play much (and if he's not in the 10-man rotation, he's not going to play much). It would give him additional time to develop (without using a year of eligibility) and it would help balance out the scholarship distribution. Currently, Iowa projects to have five players with sophomore eligibility next year (Gesell, Woodbury, Clemmons, Uthoff, Meyer/Ingram) and two players with freshman eligibility (Jok, Meyer/Ingram). If both Ingram and Meyer redshirted, Iowa would have a three-man senior class next year (Marble, McCabe, Basabe), a three-man junior class (White, Olaseni, Oglesby), a four-man sophomore class (Gesell, Woodbury, Clemmons, Uthoff), and a three-man freshman class (Meyer, Ingram, Jok). That seems far more balanced.
As for the game itself... again, it was an exhibition game against a Division II opponent. Let's not read too much into things. Iowa opened up the game on a 22-0 run and used another 25-0 run in the second half to blow things open again after Quincy had put together a mini-run with some strong outside shooting. This was a pretty dominant display. There was room for improvement -- Iowa's offensive efficiency was lacking at times (in the first half there was some particularly sloppy finishing around the hoop) and the press got burned a few times in the second half -- but overall it was pretty much exactly the sort of performance you'd hope to see from a good team playing a very overmatched opponent. It also looked like the team that McCaffery has been promising to build at Iowa since he arrived -- they pushed the pace and were able to dictate the tempo of the game (read: fast) and they were able to play an aggressive, trapping defense for much of the game, thanks to the depth of the 10-man rotation. This looked like the blueprint for how McCaffery wants to his teams to play at Iowa and while it should go without saying that improvement and experience (and probably even still more talent to fill out the ranks) will be needed to make it work as well against better opponents, it was damn fun to watch.
Iowa shot 48% for the game (33/69), made 44% of their three-point attempts (11/25), and hit almost 80% of their free throws (23/29, 79.3%). (It was nice to see them hitting free throws, since poor free throw shooting was an issue in several games last year.) Iowa only out-rebounded Quincy 46-32 (with a 20-13 edge on the offensive glass) and the 17 turnovers weren't good, but they had 20 assists (led by Gesell and Clemmons with three apiece) and a whopping 19 (!) steals (led by Eric May with four). Gesell led all players in scoring with 16; Oglesby and May each chipped in 15 points.
In terms of performances, apply the same Division II caveat as before, but... it was fun to see Gesell make his debut and look so polished. Quincy is a far cry from other opponents Iowa will face this year, but Gesell really did look smooth in his first outing for Iowa: he controlled the offense well, showed off a nice outside shot, and played some active defense. I think we're going to really enjoy watching him play this year. White didn't look like he had skipped a beat since last year, although his jump shot was a little off (I'm not sure he made any field goals that weren't dunks) and McCabe did a little bit of everything (7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists). Marble had a quiet day in terms of the stats (6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist), but I wouldn't read much into that -- I suspect he'll have plenty of more prolific performances for Iowa when they really need them later this season.
Oglesby had a solid game shooting the ball (5/10, 3/6 from beyond the arc); he's going to be a fun scoring option to bring off the bench. Basabe finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds, but the most exciting part of his afternoon may have been his 6/6 performance from the free throw line -- he made fewer than 70% of his free throws last year, so it would be huge if he can become a more reliable free throw shooter. In terms of the other freshmen... no one stood out as much as Gesell, although they all had moments of strong play. Woodbury had a beautiful assist and a nice finish off an inbounds play, but also looked a bit lost at other times, while Clemmons made some nice plays but also got a bit too careless with the ball at times (three turnovers). (It was hard to get much of a read on Ingram and Meyer, given how little they played and the fact that most of their minutes came in garbage time.) Neither Woodbury nor Olaseni seemed to notably outplay the other; I suspect they'll see a pretty even split of minutes this year, at least early on.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was Eric May, who had 15 points, 3 assists, and 4 steals in 17 minutes of work. He was strong in transition, but his jump shot wasn't bad, either, and he showed really good anticipation on defense. More than anything, he just looked healthy -- and confident -- for the first time in a long time. Of course, this was (again!) versus a Division II opponent and May also started the year brightly last season (12 points, 5 assists in the opener; 20 points, 9 rebounds in the next game; 14 points, 4 assists in the game after that) before entering a funk that he never really emerged from. So we'll have to wait and see where things go with May, but it would be a very positive development for this team if he's able to be more than a bit player this year.
(Walk-ons Darius Stokes, Kyle Denning, and Christopher Rickert also played in this game, mostly in the final five minutes of the game. I wouldn't expect to see them in any future games unless it's a serious blowout. Jarrod Uthoff did not play; NCAA rules prevent him from even playing in exhibition games this year.)
Iowa first game that actually counts in the standings is on Friday at 8pm CT against Texas-Pan American.