Today’s the day, folks! The beginning of another Iowa basketball season is here. And while the preseason hype is nowhere near the levels it was last year, on this blog and elsewhere, this could still be a team that picks up some solid wins and finishes in the upper portions of the Big Ten Conference.
Or...it could be a repeat of last season and be full of even more misery. I guess we’ll have to wait and see! We have a bit yet until the true warning signs would start to show up, although last year that did happen right around Thanksgiving, and this year’s 2K Classic lineup is not easy for the Hawks. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The season begins in earnest tomorrow against the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos, and head coach Fran McCaffery gave his first press conference of the regular season on Tuesday to preview the matchup. Check out the full transcript here.
Let’s get things kicked off with the injury news you’re most curious about:
Q. Where is Jordan Bohannon health wise, and how do you manage his minutes?
COACH MCCAFFERY: He practiced a little bit yesterday. He’ll try again today. If everything goes well I think he’ll play. I think we just see how he does, see how he’s feeling. If he’s ready to go, he’ll go. If he gets sore, we’ll take him out. There’s really no other way to plan for that.
Q. You said it was a bad bruise?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Yeah. So those things just take time. There’s no way around it.
Q. How did he look in practice?
COACH MCCAFFERY: He looked good. He looked good. I would say close to being himself.
That’s good, right? We’re not worried, right? No need to break out the ‘This is fine’ image before the first game even tips off?
Q. You played pretty much everybody the other night. It’s an annual question for you; how deep do you go with this team?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, we can go -- it depends on who is injured and who is not injured, that will determine how much playing time people get. But we’ve got a lot of different pieces that we can play.
I think you settled in -- I’ve settled in on kind of who the starters are. Jordan comes back. He starts. And the other guys that start. And you go from there. Cordell was really good the other night. Kriener has been playing really well, and so has Jack.
In the back court, Maishe has looked good. I thought he looked good. And I thought Connor was solid, gives us some flexibility there. It was good to see Maishe be able to play the point when we needed him to. But he gives you a defensive presence on the wing. He can guard anybody from 6-feet to 6’8”. So nothing new there. We’ll just kind of keep doing what we’ve been doing there and see who can perform well.
So basically, everyone is playing well, which means everyone is going to get playing time, which means Fran will most likely never fall into a nice eight or nine guy rotation, with other guys getting playing time only in emergency situations. It’s still early, but this worries me. Historically, Fran with depth hasn’t been the greatest thing.
Q. When you broke down Sunday, how do you think you guys did defensively, as you look back?
COACH MCCAFFERY: We did fine. But it was a situation where we were the better team. So there were some good things and there were some things maybe that weren’t so good. But you have to temper the enthusiasm a little bit. We’re playing a team that’s not as big as us. And they’re a Division III team.
So I think a lot of good things -- all in all, very positive. But you temper your enthusiasm and recognize that the team coming in tomorrow is a lot better.
I’m so excited to see Joe Wieskamp develop over the season. Moreso than I’ve been with a recruit for this program in awhile.
Q. Seems like Joe Wieskamp keeps a pretty level head. He carries himself as a veteran in terms of interviews. What does it say about him and how he has transitioned and kind of handled maybe the expectations or anything else like that?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I really think you said it. Joe is incredibly mature, incredibly focused, organized. And so that really helps a seamless transition from high school to college, when you’re taking that approach. We put something new in, he’s got it figured out. We’re playing Missouri, okay, I know what I have to do. We’re playing -- he’ll study the scouting report.
He’s locked in. He’s very mature, very concentrated in everything that he does. Has just high expectation for himself. And I think a lot of guys do, but sometimes they tend to, if they struggle at any point in time, then their confidence wavers and things can go sideways. He doesn’t get too worked up. If he’s playing great, that’s fine. If he struggles, he just grinds and works it out and comes back. Not a big mistake guy.
He never goes crazy out there. He just kind of moves and moves without it. Moves the ball, attacks the rim and affects the game in a variety of different ways. And that’s what makes him special.
Q. Is that rare for a freshman to come in with that sort of --
COACH MCCAFFERY: It is. Others have done it. But it’s harder to do than you think. It’s quite difficult, actually. So let’s let him continue to develop, and I think you’ll see that those qualities that we talked about are evident. Doesn’t mean he’s going to have a perfect game every time out. But at the end of the day he’s not going to have a lot more mistakes than good things. It’s typically the other way around.
Q. Has he been able to assimilate with his teammates and vice versa because he’s really the only new player in this rotation?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Keep in mind, you know, it’s a little different for him. He’s been coming around for years, coming to all of our games and coming to workouts. He’s visited numerous occasions.
And then we started in June. So he had time to learn. It’s not like the old days where you were trying to figure it out between October 15th and November 7th. It was a lot harder in those days. It’s easier now.
But I mean if you can’t get along with Joe Wieskamp then you’re the problem. It’s that simple. He’s that easy to get along with. Everybody likes him. He’s one of those guys that he’s going to fit in the locker room. He’s going to fit in on the road. He’s going to fit in the weight room. He’s going to fit in on the offense.
Whatever you need me to do, Coach, I’m ready and he’s going to help his teammates. There’s no selfishness in him at all. He’s a gamer. That’s what you want. When you recruit, that’s what you want on your team.
You heard it folks: Joe Wieskamp, locker room glue guy. They probably need that.
Q. I’m sure you’ve taken plenty of questions over the last couple of months about what you would consider changing in light of last season. But are there things you wanted to make sure you didn’t change, that you didn’t stray too far from what you are?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, I think primarily, like, we’re still going to run. One of the things you can do is if you are not playing good defense is limit the number of times you’re on defense. Maybe longer possessions on offense, squeeze the ball a little bit more and try to dig in on a fewer number of possessions.
That’s one philosophy that comes out of a team that struggles defensively as you go back and look at it. But I don’t want to do that. I want to continue to run. I don’t care if there’s a high number of possessions in the game. I don’t care if we shoot the ball early in the clock. I’d rather not shoot early in the clock if we’re not completely open.
So maybe at times we shoot it a little bit later in the clock, keep them on defense a little bit more, put more pressure on them. But in terms of the other things, we’re trying to keep you off the free-throw line. We’re trying to limit you to one shot.
And if we play fast, we might have some guys that get fatigued. Well, you’ve got to get fresh bodies in there. Because if you’re going to be a team that has the necessary level of intensity defensively, then you have to have fresh bodies out there.
We’ve all seen Nicholas Baer come in and impact the game and then just kind of hit that wall, run out of gas and he has to come out. I love him, he’s playing great and I don’t really want to take him out, but he’s got to come out because he’s exhausted.
He’s not the only one that falls in that category. He’s the one that everybody remembers because he has the ability to literally go until exhaustion. Other guys pace themselves a little bit more.
So obviously we want to be better than we were last year defensively. And there’s a lot of ways to look at that. But I don’t think you want to completely change everything else that we’ve ever done in order to accomplish maybe that one thing.
You say, well, you look at one team. They lead the nation in team defense. Well, they might. But they might average 58 points a game. That’s something that really excites me very much.
A lot to break down here. Potential platoon-shift substitutions? Longer offensive possessions and -gasp- passing to find the open shot? Increased emphasis on defense? It’s still so early. There’s an entire season left for this to work out, sort of work out, or go terribly wrong. I’m hoping for the first option. What does everyone else think?