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Iowa Basketball Positional Preview: The Post

Bigs on bigs on bigs

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Iowa Basketball positional previews! We’ll wind through the point (link), the wing (link), 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

Iowa had a rotating cast of characters in the post. It largely revolved around Tyler Cook, who came in as a much-ballyhooed freshman and did not disappoint. He started nearly every game he was available - he missed 7 non-conference games and came off the bench against Purdue - and was regularly a force. His stat line of 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 24.5 minutes launched him into the All-Freshman Big Ten team with teammate Jordan Bohannon.

His most stable running mates down low were Cordell Pemsl (14 starts) and Ahmad Wagner (18 starts). Pemsl averaged 8.9 points and 5 boards in 19.3 minutes a game on 62% shooting while Wagner posted 4.8 and 3.4 in 16 minutes. Ryan Kriener showed flashes in his spot minutes and Dale Jones played sparingly with recurring injuries.

Starters

Tyler Cook, 5 (SO)
6’9”, 255 lbs, St. Louis, MO (Chaminade Prep)

Cook is absolutely electric to watch. If anything was learned during the exhibitions, it’s that he could be unguardable throughout the season at the power forward position. The offense can, and should, run through him.

KenPom high water mark: Tyler saved his best for (almost last) as he made 15 straight shots from the field in the NIT games against South Dakota and TCU. His 7 turnovers against TCU hampered his rating but against the Coyotes, he had posted a 145 offensive rating with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.

KenPom low water mark: Virginia constricted Cook into 2-5 shooting, good for six points and four turnovers and a rating of 61.

Reasonable Best Case Scenario: Months ago, I walked through what it would take for Cook to get drafted and still think that is a best case scenario, though not necessarily reasonable. I expect Iowa to run a ton of offense through Cook - he looked great in the exhibitions getting his own bucket, including some moments dribbling in transition. If he is able to manage double-teams effectively, we’ll see impressive assist numbers from him as well. He improves defensively as a weak-side shot blocker.

Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: He focuses too much on scoring and teams can break him down with double teams. His defense is still a season away. The talent regularly shines through but consistency becomes an issue.

Per Game Prediction: 26 minutes, 15 points, 7 boards, and 2 assists

Luka Garza, 55 (FR)
6’11”, 235 lbs, Washington, D.C. (Maret School)

In addition to general laziness, the lack of information available on Garza delayed my analysis of this position group.

Boy was I glad I did that.

Luka Garza is a tremendous talent per the stats and the eye test available to us with the six games provided through the European Trip and the two exhibitions (21 points/12 rebounds). He demonstrates supreme confidence on offense with his back-to-the-basket game but isn’t afraid to stretch his range to three nor do the dirty work down low. StoopsMyAss compiled them and compared against other “true” centers since 2000:

Player, best year of production, (points/rebounds):

  • Adam Woodbury (8/8)
  • Gabriel Olaseni (8/5)
  • David Palmer (4/2)
  • Seth Gorney (5/4)
  • Erek Hansen (7/4)
  • Jared Reiner (10/7)
  • Sean Sonderleiter (8/4)

So yeah, I’m excited about this kid.

Reasonable Best Case Scenario: Garza comes out and immediately posts a stat line in line above the best of the bunch. He’s a good enough defender and rebounder to improve Iowa’s defensive rating. He shreds Ethan Happ on January 23rd.

Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: The adjustment from DC Private League and exhibitions to the real games proves to be too much. He still starts and shows his potential, but he isn’t quite ready for the speed of the game.

Per Game Prediction: 20 minutes, 8 points, 6 rebounds

Backups

Cordell Pemsl, 35 (SO)
6’8”, 240 lbs, Dubuque, IA (Wahlert)

Ryan Kriener, 15 (SO)
6’9”, 250 lbs, Spirit Lake, IA (Spirit Lake)

In the exhibitions, Fran often played Pemsl and Kriener as the backups to Cook and Garza, respectively. It looks like there will be chemistry between the two duos but he won’t be afraid of mixing and matching the four with each other. Pemsl has slimmed down to 235 after his hernia surgery and Kriener has regained all the weight he lost from last summer’s mystery illness.

Reasonable Best Case Scenario: Pemsl and Kriener rotate in and keep opponents off balance with the skill they’re able to show as backup big men. Pemsl’s increased athleticism adds to his already devastating old man game and Kriener improves defensively to reduce his team-high foul rate. Pemsl dunks and I use the phrase, “Pemsl Dunkls!”

Reasonable Worst Case Scenario: Cordell lost too much strength with his weight loss and Kriener continues to be a foul machine. The potentially reduced roles exacerbate inconsistency on both ends of the floor.

Wings Who Might Play Down Low

Jack Nunge, 2 (FR)
6’11”, 225 lbs, Newburgh, IN (Castle)

Ahmad Wagner, 0 (JR)
6’7”, 235 lbs, Yellow Springs, OH (Wayne)

Nicholas Baer, 51 (RS JR)
6’7”, 210 lbs, Bettendorf, IA (Bettendorf)

Dom Uhl, 25 (SR)
6’9”, 220 lbs, Frankfurt, Germany (Point Pleasant Beach, NJ)

Jack Nunge is probably too big not to play as a post against some opponents and the other three have shown they’ll do it in the past. Really, this is just a reminder of the depth and versatility of talent Fran has amassed for this year.

Summary

Luka Garza looks like the next big thing after two exhibitions alongside Tyler Cook. Both work well together in high-low action and can get their own basket. Much like the wing, it’ll be very important for Fran to manage minutes and egos to maximize the team’s ability.