Welcome to the Iowa Basketball positional previews! We’ll wind through the point (link), the wing, and the post to take a look at who returns and what we think they can do for the Hawkeyes in 2017-18!
2016-17 Positional Recap
After 6 games of starting Peter Jok and Dom Uhl at shooting guard and small forward, Fran McCaffery knocked Uhl out and slid Isaiah Moss into the starting lineup at Notre Dame in Iowa’s youth movement. Jok had his ups and downs, but ended the season leading the Big Ten in scoring.
Isaiah Moss struggled to find his footing as his offensive performances were wildly inconsistent, since his minutes and touches were often low as a tertiary offensive player. Overall, he averaged 6.5 points on 41.2% shooting in 17.1 minutes.
In addition to Moss, Nicholas Baer and Brady Ellingson took up the bulk of backup wing minutes. Baer had an incredibly successful season as he finished as the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. While his per game stats were impressive (23.8 minutes, 7.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2.7 stocks - steals + blocks) his advanced stats were even more impressive. He ranked in the top 20 of 9 categories in the conference, according to KenPom ($). Ellingson struggles were similar to those of Moss with inconsistent minutes and touches, and averaged 14.2 minutes and 4.4 points per game with team highs in 3-point percentage (47.1%) and free throw percentage (18/18) with limited sample size.
Isaiah Moss, 4 (RS SO)
6’5”, 205 lbs, Chicago, IL (Simeon)
Moss has a huge opportunity in front of him. Peter Jok’s departure means there are 20 points, 15 shots, and countless touches up for grabs. As Jerry documented this past spring, there is great potential in the Simeon product. If he is able to improve his consistency, he’ll be a huge asset on offense and defense.
KenPom high water mark: Against Michigan, Isaiah posted a 180 offensive rating with limited usage (3/4 with 7 points in 20 minutes). He had another tier of games in the 140-150 range, and my preferred one of the bunch is the NIT game against South Dakota. In 27 minutes, he had 16 points on 6-12 shooting (four threes), with 4 boards and 3 stocks for a 144 rating.
KenPom low water mark: Moss had 8 games with a zero or non-existent rating. The common denominator? Minutes. Only two were games with more than 10 minutes - at Purdue and against Virginia.
Reasonable Best Case Scenario: Isaiah Moss elevates to a bona fide wing for the Hawkeyes and becomes a go-to scorer who can score in all three phases nearly at will (around the rim, midrange, and three-point shots). He also becomes a force defensively and regularly guards the opponent’s best wing. He comes from nowhere to be Iowa’s 5th straight All Big Ten player.
Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: Moss continues to struggle in finding his footing and teams send their best perimeter defender to Bohannon. He continues to show flashes in transition and on defense, but his inconsistency forces McCaffery to shake up the rotation at shooting guard.
Per Game Prediction: 24 minutes, 9.5 points, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals
While Isaiah Moss has one starting spot locked down, the other is up for grabs. It really just depends on what direction McCaffery wants to go in. My prediction is unorthodox because his name has not been mentioned yet.
Ahmad Wagner, 0 (JR)
6’7”, 235 lbs, Yellow Springs, OH (Wayne)
Ahmad Wagner started the 4th most games of returning players (Moss, Bohannon, and Tyler Cook have more) and is the type of “dirty work” guy you want on the floor with more offensively-oriented players. One anecdote this offseason said he performed the best in every defensive position drill. His insertion here also allows Iowa to continue bringing Nicholas Baer off the bench. Last year, Wagner averaged 16.0 minutes, 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists.
KenPom high water mark: Wagner’s highest rated game from KenPom was against Wisconsin. He had an offensive rating of 212 in 16 minutes, including crunch time when he wreaked havoc in Iowa’s press. His only basket was after a steal of the overrated Ethan Happ. He posted another steal and three rebounds. If scoring is your thing, his next best game was at Maryland, where he got 12 points on 3/5 shooting and sank 6/8 free throws. He also added 6 boards and 2 assists in 15 minutes.
KenPom low water mark: Much like Moss, Ahmad couldn’t find consistency in minutes, resulting in five 0/non-ratings. Against Seton Hall, he missed his only shot, went one of four from the charity stripe, and collected two boards in 20 minutes for a 39 rating.
Reasonable Best Case Scenario: Wagner is able to be the glue guy of the starting lineup in a position for which he’s built. He carves out a distinct role as he causes chaos on defense, grabs boards, and wrecks fools dunking. In the half court, he shows enough off-the-bounce game and passing to keep defenders honest in spite of his underwhelming shot.
Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: Amid a crowded frontline, Wagner is unable to separate himself and finds his minutes in flux game-to-game.
Per Game Prediction: 14 minutes, 5 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 steals
Nicholas Baer, 51 (RS JR)
6’7”, 210 lbs, Bettendorf, IA (Bettendorf)
Baer may very well start, as he started 10 contests last year. He probably deserves it if you go by the “best five” mantra. But he thrives off the bench. He makes everyone better (except Dom Uhl) and always brings the fire. One point of concern I’ll watch for this year? His good three-point shooting percentage from last year (39.7%) is a function of two different seasons: the first 22 games where he went 23/75 (30.7%) and the final nine where he went 23/41 (56.1%). He shot 39.4% his freshman season, so it seems the second half was the regression to the mean.
KenPom high water mark: Against Penn State, he scored his most points in the season, 20, on 4/4 from deep, 7/10 overall, with 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for a 161 rating in 22 minutes. His game log is littered with incredible stat lines. If he isn’t Iowa’s best returning player, he might be their most consistent.
KenPom low water mark: As alluded to above, Baer was incredible consistent - only three games last year were below 80 with another five below 100 (~average). His worst was in the Barn against Minnesota where he blanked from three on four shots en route to a 52. Flipside? He had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Even when he’s off he’s on.
Reasonable Best Case Scenario: Frankly, it seems like we’re already living Nicholas Baer’s best case scenario. Not to say that everything we get from him is gravy, but it’s so consistent and reliable that you never have to worry what’s going on between his ears. He’s always into the game when he’s in the game. BUT, if he could improve at one thing, maybe it’s dribbling in the open court? Point Baer? Maybe he becomes more assertive on offense? I honestly don’t know.
Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: His three point shooting drops? He loses his “Straight Outta Cookies” shirt? Again - we know what we’re getting from Baer.
Per Game Prediction: 22 minutes, 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3.5 blocks
BONUS HOT TAKE: Nicholas Baer ends up playing in the NBA.
Brady Ellingson, 24 (RS JR)
6’4”, 196 lbs, Menomonee Falls, WI (Hamilton)
Maishe Dailey, 1 (SO)
6’7”, 195 lbs, Beachwood, OH (Beachwood)
Dom Uhl, 25 (SR)
6’9”, 220 lbs, Frankfurt, Germany (Point Pleasant Beach, NJ)
Jack Nunge, 2 (FR)
6’11”, 225 lbs, Newburgh, IN (Castle)
In the time between last week’s point guard preview and this one, Christian Williams opted to transfer out of the Hawkeyes program. With his departure, it’s more incumbent on Ellingson and Dailey to fulfill backup roles, whether it be the point or here on the wing. In addition to them are Uhl, whose preferred fit is the 3, and Nunge because maybe he’ll play here.
Reasonable Best Case Scenario: As outlined in the point, when dealing with the bench mob you really just hope they take to the roles assigned to them. For Uhl, I suspect that’ll be as a defensively oriented player who should focus on consistent effort from that end of the court. Ellingson is going to be a gunner. He might not always be needed but in a more egalitarian offense, there should be open shots and he should be able to make them. Dailey and Nunge are the wildcards here. Nunge might be a super-Baer of sorts, while Dailey is more of a slasher.
Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: Fran struggles managing roles and minutes and frustration boils onto the court.
Charlie Rose, 11 (SR)
6’4”, 190 lbs, Elmhurst, IL (York Community)
Riley Till, 20 (RS FR)
6’7”, 200 lbs, Dubuque, IA (Wahlert)
Reasonable best case scenario: Great celebrations. Many trillions.
Reasonable worst case scenario: These aren’t the Lickliter years. I think we’ll get through the season without these guys playing meaningful minutes.
Isaiah Moss is the heir apparent of Peter Jok as scoring guard with tons of role players around him. There’s scoring, rebounding, shooting, and defense all over this area and it’s incumbent on Fran to manage it wisely.