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30 Days until Iowa Basketball: Connor McCaffery

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It only took two-plus years, but Connor McCaffery is the most important Hawkeye not named Luka Garza

NCAA Basketball: Southern Utah at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There’s 30 days left until the college basketball season starts but we’ve yet to gain clarity for when the Hawkeyes’ season begins. Let’s round up and begin the countdown with the best player Iowa’s had in my lifetime (1990).

Previously:

55: Luka Garza

Connor McCaffery
Guard/Forward, 6’5”, 205 lbs
RS Junior, Iowa City, IA (West)

There are few Hawkeyes who have had the roller coaster ride of a career quite like Connor McCaffery. After initially planning his true freshman year (2017-18) as a redshirt year on the hardwood to focus on baseball, he flipped his priorities after Christian Williams announced his transfer.

It was cut short as he dealt with a rash of health issues, most notably his mononucleosis-turned-strep throat-turned-tonsillitis. He sat out after playing just four games and had to work through regaining weight after being unable to eat solid food for three weeks. He was eventually ruled out and received a medical hardship waiver after the season.

He had a strong start to his redshirt freshman year - good enough for me to write an article about his strengths - before a concussion seemed to affect his performance on the court. He finished the regular season on a low note, missing a number of free throws as Nebraska mounted a huge comeback. It was a fine season off the bench, as he averaged 4.4 points and 3.0 assists per game, but he often drew criticism by being the son of head coach, Fran McCaffery. Such is life.

Ahead of last season, the path to playing time seemed clear, with Isaian Moss and Maishe Dailey departing, Jordan Bohannon expected a redshirt, and little else guaranteed in Iowa’s backcourt.

He shined.

McCaffery started all 31 of Iowa’s games, most notably leading the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. He found his stroke, shooting 34% from three and 78% from the line. He provided much needed defensive versatility, often matching up with opponents’ power forwards in Iowa’s four-guard lineup.

A year after being a fan frustration, he turned into as reliable a player as Iowa had, night-to-night. While he’ll hardly fill it up (just 6.2 points/game), he provides a steadiness on the court in the 30ish minutes/game he was on it.

He heads into the 2020-21 as, arguably, the most irreplaceable Hawkeye outside of Garza due to his steady hand, defensive versatility, and ability to get his teammates the ball where they can score.

An ideal stat line would probably resemble much of what he put up in 2020 with higher shooting percentages which could bring his scoring average closer to 8 per game and another assist or two, if we’re being greedy. He figures to be a lock in the starting lineup and the primary ballhandler to free up Jordan Bohannon to worry about shooting exclusively.

And hey, if he can added a trip to the College World Series in addition to Iowa’s Final Four, that’d be the cherry on top.