NCAA basketball teams are allowed a quadrennial trip abroad, and this summer the Iowa Hawkeyes will be heading to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The games they play are scheduled as followed:
- Aug. 8 - German All-Stars; Heidelberg, Germany 1 PM CDT
- Aug. 10 - Swiss All-Stars; Baden, Switzerland 1 PM CDT
- Aug. 12 - Milan All-Stars; Vedano, Italy 1 PM CDT
- Aug. 14 - Vicenza All-Stars; Vicenza, Italy 12:30 PM CDT
They are not planning to stream the games anywhere. Sad!
After arriving in Dom Uhl’s hometown of Frankfurt, they’ll be on the move. Google Maps has the time between each game as about a 3-hour drive.
In my travels, I’ve been lucky enough to go to both Germany (Berlin and Munich) and Switzerland (Lucerne). Central Europe is absolutely stunning with the Alps and offers views you just won’t see anywhere else in the world. This says nothing about the distinct cultures* they’ll witness and firsthand experience the Hawks will get by traveling with Uhl.
* my first taste of Switzerland was when my brother and I arrived at the train station super hungry well past dark and could not find a taxi to save our lives. Once we finally did find one, the only language the driver spoke was Romansh which we were not prepared for. Though we did make it to the hostel alright, lesson learned! I’m assuming none of these problems will apply to the Hawkeyes.
Iowa also opened the doors yesterday to the media, here’s what came of those interactions!
I unabashedly love Fran. Whenever he speaks, the transcript is must read material for me because he rarely holds back what he’s thinking. Here are some of my favorite tidbits from this week’s presser.
Last year, Fran went on the record saying that he felt bad about not playing Dale Jones and Maishe Dailey because they were practicing so well. So, with Jones and Peter Jok as the only departing players, and two 6’11” guys coming in, there’s going to be a log jam. He won’t use the foreign trip to sort it out quite yet:
Q. You have a very deep team. I think 86% of your minutes are returning. Guys from 1 to 14 could legitimately play. A couple years ago you had a deep team too, but this one may be even more. Have you been able to kind of use some of these practices to maybe identify maybe a little growth in one person and separate? FRAN McCAFFERY: No, I think truthfully it's probably gotten worse from that standpoint. It's become harder. But, you know, I'm a firm believer in over time that will manifest itself. What I'm going to try to do on this trip is a completely fair dispersal of playing time. Not get into this is my starting lineup, this is my next three, this is my next three. These guys aren't going to play as much. That's not the case because nobody is in that last group that I can see.
It also hits at the “iron sharpens iron” approach Iowa has when they can build three legitimate units - sup Riley Till - out of the players available to them. They’ll never be able to take a day off, barring injury, because a day off means others are stepping ahead of you. They’re bringing the best out of each other day in, day out, and that should excite Iowa fans. He went into further detail regarding Jok’s departure, who had the majority of his minutes at the 3 in conference play last year:
Well, Nicholas Baer's playing on a whole 'nother level, and he came off the bench. But he could very easily be our starting three-man. Isaiah Moss is as you would have expected, taking another step. Brady Ellingson hasn't missed a shot in about three weeks. That's always a good sign. Christian Williams really was playing well, he's backed up a little this week. Last week was the best I've seen him ever. So I'm not really worried about it.
I think you can play Ahamad [sic] at three. You can play Dom at three. We've got a lot of options there.
Nicholas Baer had the most gaudy stat-line in any single Prime Time League game, when he posted a 43-point triple-double. It’s exciting to see him continue to improve and assert himself as one of the best players on this squad. Whether he starts or comes of the bench will be an interesting debate throughout the season.
Brady Ellingson also continues to impress. Frankly, I’m not the least bit surprised as he was the leading 3-point shooter last year [whispers] who had his best games without Peter Jok in the lineup. He’s going to make an impact on this team.
One name which surprised me not on that list was incoming freshman Jack Nunge. All of the information I had available to me, led me to project him as a souped-up Nicholas Baer on the wing but McCaffery has slotted him more as a post-player, given his size.
Q. Do your fours and fives constantly rotate, Cook could play both spots, Cordell, Kriener, Garza?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah, and Jack. Yeah, because we have more low-post scoring threats than we've ever had. We have so many guys that can score inside. But the great thing about Ryan, Luka and Jack is they all make threes. So that creates a little more space for Cordell and for Tyler.
He goes on to praise Kriener’s game and flashes of athleticism, with this anecdote:
He made a move yesterday in practice and it was like, wow, you know. He took it like hard right to left crossover, you know, fake this way, finish with his left-hand over a guy. I mean, that is NBA stuff right there. You know, you can't coach that kind of play.
Style of Play
With the versatile bigs, Iowa now has, it brought about a question of whether Fran anticipates a change in his preferred motion offense:
Q. Will you tweak your motion offense at all?
FRAN McCAFFERY: No. I don't think we will. I think we'll keep it the way it is because both of those guys like to be able to face and play with their back to the basket, and that's kind of the beauty of that offense. You see more Cordell and Tyler, once we started, they rolled into the post and kind of stay in there. But that's okay because we'll have a four out, one in, and a five out. But, if you've got those two guys on the floor, and Tyler is the one in and they want to help, those guys will drill it for you.
You’ll remember Fran regularly ran post-ups for Tyler Cook last year and that’ll stay in this year. What excites me are the possibilities of Iowa really exploiting cross-matches: i.e.: the center guarding Cook while a power forward guards Garza. If teams are going to put their best post defender on Cook, Fran isn’t afraid of letting another player cook in the paint.
The other way to think along the lines of that question is would you run more sets? With Luka Garza, throw the ball inside, he's going to score. He's going to score on guys in our league. You can't get to him. He's 6'11. He's got a 7'4" wing span. You hit him, and he still makes it. He makes every foul shot.
As Shaqstradamus once said, “Get it to the big dog, let him eat.”
The added depth up front is also going to allow Iowa post defenders to play more aggressive post defense knowing there are other capable players available. Fran mentioned Tyler Cook has elevated his rim protection with Garza and Nunge also proving capable. Question marks still remain on the perimeter, but building a wall in front of the basket is a good starting point on defense.
Q. What are some of the other stuff, the experience with the guys, the camaraderie, how important is that?
FRAN McCAFFERY: It's really important. And my experience in the past has been the teams that have had this opportunity have always gelled and played well the following year. They just come together. You know, so that's probably as important a component of this opportunity as anything, maybe more important.
Just the practices here, be together, travel, you know, play some games, but also experience a culture. And oftentimes you go to one or two countries, we're going to three. I think that's really good. And they're all different, you know? So I think from that standpoint it will be terrific.
But also I want it to be something they'll remember for the rest of their lives. You get to do this once when you're in college, and we want to make sure, and fortunately we're very thankful to Mr. Barta to make sure we're doing it right. It sounds great, but it's expensive. We're making sure that we provide the optimum experience for these guys, and we're not cutting every corner to save a few dollars. We're going to do it right, and I'm very thankful that in a place that wants that for our guys.
- Photos were released from the last couple of Hawkeye practices and I take great joy in picking these things apart. My first thought is the guys wearing black in practice #7 - Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, Jack Nunge, Tyler Cook, and Luka Garza - are the “a” team of sorts. But the next practice had Ryan Kriener and Dom Uhl wearing black, so there seems to be a rotation along the frontline. Or I’m just over-analyzing.
- There is a disproportionate amount of intrigue around a player who won’t play a second next year. 18% of the questions and 16% of the words from the transcript are about Connor McCaffery. He’ll be playing with the team on the trip but the most telling quote for me is:
“I’m really looking forward to it. That was a big reason why my dad wanted me to come on this trip,” Connor said. “This is going to be one of the only times I’m going to play (basketball) in the next year or two.
My read: baseball is his number clear one priority and he’ll only fall back on basketball if he doesn’t show signs of playing real time for Rick Heller - i.e.: pushing for Jake Adams vacant spot at first. Every quote he says diminishes the likelihood he’ll impact the basketball program more than Tyler Self at Kansas.
- The Hawkeyes are coming out with a different mindset this year amid a summer with not much national intrigue. There was the ballyhooed Bohannon tweet scoffing at Joe Lunardi’s bracket and Ryan Kriener went so far as to call Matt Norlander’s #10 in the Big Ten ranking (of CBS Sports) a “slap in the face.”
The expectations are higher for the team this year and Chad Leistikow goes on to mention in the above link the last time Iowa went on a preseason trip preceded a top 10 midseason ranking behind Devyn Marble and Aaron White. I think they were Fran’s best team and will ardently defend that take.
I really enjoyed Jeremiah Davis’s piece which dove even deeper on the subject of effort and intensity. Kriener alluded to the night-and-day aspect from pre-2016 to now and Cook commended the freshmen’s impact in practice.