The Iowa Hawkeyes basketball season is coming at juuust the right time. While the expectations aren’t as high as last year, the possibility of a successful season still exists. Over the next week, we’ll take a look at the players on Iowa’s roster and what type of season we might expect from them. Up next: three presumptive starters who will be called upon to make major contributions this year.
#2, Junior, 6’0”, 190 lbs
2020-21 stats: 3.7 PPG, 2.4 APG, 42.4% FG, 11.3 MPG, 31 games
With 6th-year player Jordan Bohannon set to transition to shooting guard this season and Connor McCaffery likely to come off the bench, Joe Toussaint is the odds-on favorite to be the Hawkeyes’ starting point guard in 2021-22. Toussaint actually started twenty games as a freshman after Bohannon was shut down due to surgery, but took a backseat role last season after being relegated to the bench. Toussaint saw significant decreases in his per-game minutes (11.3 down from 17.9), points (3.7 down from 6.5) and field goal attempts (3.2 down from 5.8), while his free throw percentage plummeted from 83.1% as a freshman to 62.2% as a sophomore.
Despite experiencing what some might call a sophomore slump, there is still plenty of optimism surrounding Toussaint. The junior from New York possesses tremendous athletic upside and can use his speed to impact the game in transition. Toussaint has also flashed legitimate two-way potential with his aggressive on-ball defense, excellent recovery speed, and tenacity as a pickpocket which could make him an excellent defensive compliment to Keegan Murray and help him compensate for some of the weaknesses Bohannon has as a perimeter defender. Furthermore, Toussaint actually improved as a shooter last year, increasing his field goal percentage from 37.8% to 42.4% thanks to him taking a step forward in the midrange game.
The size of Toussaint’s role will ultimately be determined less by his physical attributes and more by his decision-making. Toussaint has a habit of playing out of control and dribbling himself into trouble, and Fran McCaffery has not been shy to pull him from the game when these tendencies rear their head, even when Toussaint was acting as Iowa’s starting point guard. If Toussaint can strike the right balance between using his exceptional athletic gifts and playing within Iowa’s offensive system, he should have a career year. If not, he may increasingly find himself ceding playing time at the point guard position to Bohannon, Connor McCaffery, and Ahron Ulis.
#22, Sophomore (RS), 6’9”, 200 lbs
2020-21 stats: 5.2 PPG, .9 APG, 43.8% FG, 14.6 MPG, 31 games
Joe Toussaint’s running mate Patrick McCaffery is the leading candidate to join him in the starting lineup at the small forward spot, and it’s easy to see why the coaching staff opted to play the two of them together so frequently last year. McCaffery is oozing with athletic potential as a rangy 6’9” forward who can run the floor and handle the ball, and the redshirt sophomore only scratched the surface of his potential last year. McCaffery was a consensus Top 100 recruit whose collegiate development was slowed by his body’s recovery from thyroid cancer, but his athletic ceiling remains one of the highest in the program.
The strongest game of McCaffery’s career came last season against Nebraska in which the then-freshman scored 19 points, shot 3-6 from beyond the arc, and pulled in six rebounds in only 20 minutes of action. McCaffery was aggressive in transition, used his length to disrupt the Huskers on defense, and showed a level of consistency from beyond the arc that could dramatically open up his offensive game if he can carry it into 2021-22. McCaffery’s offensive usage rating should skyrocket this season with Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp playing in the NBA, and whether he can replicate this type of performance against higher-quality Big Ten teams will be a major factor to help determine Iowa’s ceiling this year.
Perhaps the biggest potential area for improvement for McCaffery lies in his strength and conditioning. McCaffery has the height to guard power forwards and centers in the Big Ten, but his wiry frame may make it difficult for him to absorb contact and to play significant minutes in a physical conference without starting to break down. If McCaffery can continue to add strength and stamina without compromising his athleticism and explosiveness, he could be poised for a breakout year.
#0, Senior (sort of), 6’9”, 230 lbs
2020-21 stats (North Dakota): 16.8 PPG, 1.2 APG, 50.6% FG, 31.8 MPG, 26 games
Iowa has no hope of fully replacing Luka Garza, last season’s player of the year and arguably the most dominant Hawkeye in the history of the men’s basketball program. Yet the cupboard at center is not completely bare thanks in part to the transfer of Filip Rebraca, a rising senior with two years of eligibility remaining. Rebraca was a 2nd-team All-Summit League selection in 2020-2021 who led his team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks and boasts an NBA pedigree as the son of former NBA player Zeljko Rebraca.
Rebraca is a skilled big man with an impressive array of low post moves and an excellent rebounding acumen. Rebraca scored in double figures in 33 of his final 34 games playing for the Fighting Hawks and put up 20 career double-doubles. He has crafty footwork and moves well without the ball, and while he is not the shooter that Luka Garza was, he does have a solid midrange game and has made 1/3 of his three-point shots over the course of his career. Rebraca can play power forward or center but will likely spend the majority of his time as the latter given Iowa’s lack of proven post production after the departures of Garza and Xavier-bound Jack Nunge.
Rebraca is an experienced player who has 87 games and 74 starts under his belt, and strong performances against teams like Gonzaga, Oregon State, and Minnesota create reason for optimism about his transition to playing in the Big Ten. It remains to be seen, however, how well Rebraca will sync up with his new teammates and whether he will be able to emerge as an asset on the defensive side of the ball. Rebraca doesn’t have to be Luka Garza to find success in Iowa City, but hopefully he will be able to play well enough that Iowa’s drop-off at the five doesn’t turn into a freefall.