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The Pants Predicts: 2018-19 Iowa Basketball

Who will be Iowa’s MVP? Will they make the NCAA Tournament?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

For two months, we’ve been previewing the 2018-19 Iowa basketball team. We’ve done player previews, talked about the upcoming schedule, and pondered what will make this team tick in a pivotal season for Fran McCaffery and Co. You can find all of those posts here (and you seriously should take a look at them if you haven’t because my dude BoilerHawk did a phenomenal job putting it all together). About 30 posts in total!

Now, we’re making our predictions as to how this season will turn out. While some of us are down on the program after they went through a rough 2017-18 season, some of us are pretty optimistic on their prospects this year. So we wanted to find out what we thought of this season collectively. In this preview, we predict: Iowa’s win total and final position in the Big Ten standings, the team Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player, if the team will make a run in the Big Ten Tourney, and most importantly, whether or not the Hawks will return to the NCAAs this season.

So buckle up. We have very, very mixed opinions.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Illinois Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa Regular Season Record/What place will they finish in?

Max Brekke: I think they’ll definitely have a winning record in 2018-19, but I can’t confidently tell you that they’ll be a great team. I just haven’t seen this group of players look even semi-competent defensively in their two years on campus and I’ll need to see it to believe it. Mark me down for 18-20 wins, with a 10-10 conference record. They’ll finish tied for 8th.

BoilerHawk: I think Iowa gets to 20 wins and 11-9 in another down-ish year for the Big Ten.

MattReisener: Iowa finishes with 19 wins with a .500 record in the Big Ten and finds themselves on the bubble headed into the Big Ten tournament. The defense improves, but not as much as it needs to for Iowa to be truly competitive with the upper echelon of the conference.

Doug: I think Iowa will get 21 wins and go 11-9 in conference which would be good enough for 5th place.

Ben: I don’t see much improvement in this team and am pretty down on them. I think we pick up a few more wins from last year but finish near .500. 17-16ish sounds right.

JPinIC: I want to believe. I want to be mad again. I really do. But I got BURNED last year on my optimism and now I’m gun shy. I still think this team has the talent to win 20-22 games and make the tourney, but we have no clue if the defense will ever get there and the schedule isn’t exactly a cake walk. I’ll say 18 wins in the regular season, 10 in the Big Ten. Praying for a couple wins in the BTT to sneak in the back door.

Mattcabel: It’s amazing how Iowa’s two biggest programs are both essentially Stoop Kids. We’ve seen Fran achieve all that he can as Iowa’s coach, and this season won’t be any different. They’ll go .500 in conference and right around

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Most Valuable Player

Max: Isaiah Moss will be Iowa’s MVP in 2018-19. When he struggled last season, Iowa was really, really bad. When he was good, Iowa looked good, too. If he can consistently contribute this season, Iowa could be in for a good run.

Boiler: Luka Garza is slow to return throughout the non-conference season but eventually becomes the key to Iowa’s defense while providing his varied offensive game.

MattReisener: Is Tyler Cook a cop-out answer? Well, it’s my answer either way. Cook shows that he took his NBA draft assessment to heart and shows improved tenacity at the defensive end as well as a greater proficiency in this midrange game.

Doug: Jordan Bohannon will continue to improve and with some additional help on the roster this year, won’t be as tired late in games so his sharpshooting will remain sharp throughout the season.

Ben: Bohannon and it’s not close.

JPinIC: I think this is the year Jordan Bohannon completely takes over this team. Cook and Garza can be forces down low, but this team will go as far their point guard takes them.

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Iowa Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Most Improved Player

Max: Here’s a cop-out answer. Jack Nunge shoots 35% from three. Isaiah Moss finds his consistency on offense. Tyler Cook turns it over less. Jordan Bohannon starts making shots from half court. Ryan Kriener fouls slightly less than he did last year.

Boiler: Ryan Kriener’s backup minutes continually serve as a spark as he enjoys his first healthy season as a Hawkeye.

MattReisener: Cordell Pemsl struggled to find his identity last season after slimming down, but he re-establishes his low-post bruiser mentality and helps set the tone for the Hawkeyes off the bench with his intensity as a rebounder.

Doug: Nicholas Baer will put up numbers better than his sophomore season and that will be enough to give him the Most Improved award though it may be best termed Comeback Player.

Ben: I think Jack Nunge sneaky could be most improved! He’s put on some weight and hopefully worked on his … footwork and could see him becoming a valuable asset to the team.

JPinIC: My dark horse is Isaiah Moss. He has all the tools and we’ve seen him go nuts in short bursts. The key has always been his confidence and willingness to demand the ball. That will continue to be tested this year, but with the pieces around him and the threat of losing his job, I think he finally rises to the occasion to be a go-to weapon.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Best Win

Max: Iowa State. Save this and @ me when it’s wrong, Cyclone fans. I know you’re reading this. Just make sure you also tell everyone to follow me when you do, thanks.

Boiler: Their best win is a de facto NCAA tournament elimination game between themselves and Nebraska where they come out on top just before the conference tournament.

MattReisener: Joe Wieskamp outscores Romeo Langford in a thrilling shootout as Iowa bests Indiana at home on February 22nd. The Big Ten takes notice.

Doug: How about a win against Oregon in Madison Square Garden? That sounds like a win that would not only be “best” but put Iowa back on the map.

Ben: We’ll beat Purdue in some dumb way.

JPinIC: In desperation, Iowa goes on a Big Ten Tournament run, knocking off a top 10 Michigan State by actually getting fouls called in a complete reversal of the 2013 game where MSU raped and pillaged the Hawkeyes without a foul call en route to keeping us out of the Big Dance. Suck it Izzo.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

How far will Iowa go in the Big Ten Tournament?

Max: Second round exit, that leads me into the next question...

Boiler: They’ll win one game to advance to the quarters but can’t get any further.

MattReisener: One and done. Fran has yet to show himself capable of really taking teams on a run in this thing, though last year’s performance against Michigan was certainly encouraging.

Doug: A loss to Purdue in the semifinals is their fate.

Ben: what Matt said.

JPinIC: Because I have Iowa knocking off MSU on their BTT run, I’m going to say they make it to the championship, but lose there. I am almost certainly wrong.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Will Iowa return to the NCAA Tournament? How far will they go?

Max: They will be a bubble team, but failing to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament will keep them out of the tourney. They will be a #2 seed in the NIT.

Boiler: I’m generally down on them now, but I am optimistic they’ll turn it around enough. Is 21-12 with an 11-9 conference record enough to get into the tournament? In this alternative reality, it is: they squeak into the First Four and win. With the right matchups it could set them up for a deeper run.

MattReisener: I see this as a bubble team who will periodically flirt with a tournament bid for a good portion of the year. Iowa’s weak non-conference schedule could make it difficult for it to secure its spot in the field of 68, however. Unless this team can channel a new level of defensive efficiency that they’ve yet to flash, I see them missing the tournament yet again, though with clear signs of improvement over last season.

Doug: Iowa will return to the tourney and will secure a nine seed where they will then defeat the eight seed. Unfortunately, that means a game against Duke, Kentucky, Kansas or Virginia.

Ben: Nope!

JPinIC: Sigh. Probably not. But in my made up scenario I’ve begun to lay out, we sneak in off a BTT run. In that world, I think they win their first round game and maybe even a second. Alas, they will almost certianly end up in the NIT and I can envision a world where they fall flat there. Double sigh.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

How many technicals will Fran rack up on the season?

Max: Two. One against Indiana and one against Nebraska. But I’ll find them endearing this season because they’ll be in the right spots.

Doug: My projected over/under is 6.

Ben: yes

JPinIC: 2. In the same game. They will be deserved, but will perpetuate the narrative that he’s a hot head despite showing remarkable restraint when compared with most of the top coaches in the conference who get away with murder. Suck it Izzo.

Boiler: I personally don’t find his technicals/demeanor all that disconcerting until they are/it is (i.e.: Maryland game last year). So I suppose he’ll probably end up with 3 or 4 which seems like his normal amount on the season.