Life as a coach’s kid isn’t always the easiest. There will always be people who will say so-and-so shouldn’t be playing because he’s Fran’s/Kirk’s son. I guarantee you that Fran is tougher on Connor and Patrick than anyone else in the program. I also guarantee you that Connor has been screamed at by Fran for something Connor didn’t do. It’s often an easy “out” for a coach to heap the blame on his son/daughter.
A huge benefit of this father-son relationship is that Connor has developed one of highest basketball IQ’s I’ve ever seen. That’s not hyperbole. Connor McCaffery’s stats do not tell the complete story. My brother, who’s been a football coach in northeast Iowa for a long, long time, has a saying (it’s not original, but I attribute it to him): “There’s no such thing as a little thing.”
This holds true in the competitive world of division one basketball. Connor does so many things to help Iowa win; these things do not always go in the stat sheet, but they aren’t little and they do count towards the only stat that matters: Winning.
Connor’s 20-21 stats:
When people complain about Connor, they are looking at his stats. He is averaging 21.9 minutes per game, 3.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, and he’s only shooting 27% from 3 and 59% from the FT line. One stat that sets him apart from almost everyone in college basketball is how he values the ball. As a coach, valuing the ball is first, second, third, and the 53rd most important thing. Connor has 61 assists on the season versus 11 turnovers. That’s a staggering 5.5 assist/turnover ratio. That is good for 3rd in the nation.
As stated Connor doesn’t turn the ball over. His vision and understanding of where people are, where they should be, and where they will be is elite (I will forever dislike Pajamas Fleck for me cringing every time I use that word). He does an excellent job of feeding the post. This can’t be understated with the best player in college basketball looking to eat down low, and the Hawks have some of the best shooters in the country also spotted up ready to shoot. Below is a post feed to Luka Garza against Northwestern. Dr. Tom Davis approves of that beautiful bounce pass.
Connor injured his ankle in the first half at Rutgers. He sat the rest of the game until Fran needed someone he could trust to make a game-winning pass to get the ball inbounds. Fran went with Connor.
Here is a play that shows Connor’s understanding of the game with a back cut layup for Joe Wieskamp.
One more example of Connor directing traffic and getting the Hawks an “easy” bucket.
Over the course of a basketball game there are countless “little things” (remember, we don’t use that term) that go into winning basketball. Below is an example of Connor feeding the post, getting an inside-out look, missing the shot, but immediately following his own shot for the layup. These plays have been taught and learned over the years.
Another part of Connor’s game that he doesn’t get credit for is his overall awareness on the court. There have been many instances this year where Connor purposely fouls because he realizes the Hawks are at a disadvantage defensively. Sometimes it’s grabbing someone if they have a breakaway layup. Other times he may be coming over in help where a rotation wasn’t quite quick enough. He will deliberately foul to not give up an easy basket. This allows the Hawkeyes to set their defense. These plays oftentimes aren’t noticed, but they certainly add up to having more points than the other team when the horn blows. Below is an example of CMac fouling to not give up an easy basket.
Another play that demonstrates Connor’s high basketball IQ was this tap out rebound against Maryland. An offensive rebound is a huge play in basketball. Connor was not able to grab this board, so he tipped it back to a teammate. Once again, winning basketball.
I have been a fan of Iowa basketball since the late 1970’s. Iowa has had some terrific teams and players. I love my Hawks. Always have. Always will. That said, we’ve had some years where we had a number of guys that would get sand kicked in their faces. And they took it. I’m not saying I want a bunch of (insert Wisconsin player’s name here) players running around and playing dirty, but I promise you that the moment Connor McCaffery stepped on the court as a starter two years ago, the Hawks have been TOUGH. Also, it helps to have Luka Garza. We all love the cotton ball in the nose Garza better than the just came from Great Clips Garza. Ok, Luka probably goes to a salon, but for Covid, Great Clips is pretty fancy.
A few things stand out when you watch this year’s Iowa Hawkeye squad. They like each other. They share the ball, they celebrate each other’s success, and they are resilient. There will be bumps in the road, I’m still upset about not finishing off the Gopher game. My goal for this season is a Big Ten Championship. After that? Sweet 16. Nothing is guaranteed come tournament time. Just ask Steve Alford. Then let’s go Elite 8. Get that UNLV monkey off our backs, and let’s crash that Final Four! And once we get to Non-Covid, I’m throwing a party in Iowa City (donations accepted) and we’re getting the band back together. Lute’s 1980 squad, Dr. Tom, George Raveling, (sorry Todd L and Alford), the Street family, and any/all former players and fans that want to par-tay! But I digress. If Connor McCaffery has anything to do about it, and he does, let’s start making some plans. Let’s. Go. Hawks!