Oh yeah, what a feeling! Football is in the air which means Iowa Hawkeyes basketball is right around the corner. We’ll be counting down the days, here and there, until Iowa’s first game tips off. The countdown continues with… Ryan Kriener.
6’9”, 255 lbs.
Junior, Spirit Lake, IA (Spirit Lake)
You’ve heard a lot of hype about Luka Garza, who added 10 pounds of muscle and lost nine pounds of cyst this offseason. Much has been made of Cordell Pemsl adding muscle onto his frame after he cut down on weight a year ago. Tyler Cook, understandably, is being touted for his willingness to improve his game after taking a hard look at the NBA Draft this past summer.
But what about Ryan Kriener, who - call me crazy - might be just as important to Iowa’s success in 2018-19 as the aforementioned hoopers?
Looking at stat lines, Kriener’s isn’t particularly striking - in 10.4 minutes per game as a sophomore, he averaged just 3.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, and 1.0 apg. However, if you watched Iowa last season, Kriener’s play probably stood out to you for his tremendous effort and aggressiveness on what was otherwise a fairly passive bench group. When the offense was going stagnant, he could be depended on to be a shot in the arm, shooting over 55% from the field in 27 games.
His most productive game as a sophomore is an easy one to pick out. On the road against Minnesota, Kriener came off the bench for 14 minutes that kept Iowa in the game until the very end. He scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbed a few rebounds, and split a pair of free throws, all in the second half. In fact, he scored 15 of Iowa’s 22 points off the bench despite only playing in 14 of the 83 bench minutes. His performance against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament was also noteworthy, as he scored a TEAM-HIGH 14 points (6-of-7 shooting) to go along with four boards and an assist off the bench in 20 minutes of action. Iowa didn’t win either of these games, but they were in them until the very end and he’s a big reason why.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have things to improve upon as a junior. While he’s an efficient shooter from the floor, he took a major step back at the free throw line as a sophomore. After shooting 9-of-15 (60%) as a freshman, he proved to be an even worse free throw shooter as a sophomore, hitting just 8-of-21 (38%) from the charity stripe. He also struggled with fouling opponents, finishing a third of his games with at least three fouls, including three games where he accumulated three fouls in six minutes or less. If he wants to maintain a bigger role in the rotation as a junior, these are certainly areas where he can improve the most.
Something else he’ll need to do as a junior is find a way to stay healthy. According to his player page on Hawkeye Sports, he missed six games due to “multiple concussions.” Concussions are serious business and they clearly hampered his ability to perform after he returned last season. In his first four games after returning from a concussion in February, he tallied a total of four points, two steals, one assist, and one rebound before finally returning back to form. Obviously injuries can’t always be helped, but it’ll be important for him to stay healthy this season.
With Ahmad Wagner’s departure to play football at Kentucky and no big men added prior to the season, it looks like Kriener could be poised for a bigger role off the bench in 2018-19. Cordell Pemsl has a more traditional low-post game, particularly on offense where he hasn’t shown much ability outside of that, but Kriener offers a bit more depending on the matchup. He has a solid mid-range jumper that he displayed throughout 2017-18 and isn’t afraid to jack up a three pointer if he’s open (it’s just a matter of making them). He also provides a little more length to disrupt opposing players on defense, as he has the longest wingspan on the team. While his role isn’t certain moving forward, I’d expect to see him most alongside Pemsl off the bench, with Cordell controlling the low-post and Kriener stretching the floor.
Ryan Kriener was arguably Iowa’s MVP off the bench as a sophomore. With more minutes available in 2018-19, he could be Iowa’s most legitimate candidate for Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year if he’s able to make improvements and stay healthy.