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. We finish with: the stars.
Before we get to them - a quick appreciation for what Fran McCaffery is able to do with a wide variety of talent in terms getting his best players to receive postseason honors. Obviously there was Luka Garza’s long list over the last two seasons but before him, Iowa has had first team all-conference players in 2017, 2016, 2015, & 2014 for 6 of the last 8 seasons.
Quite the run.
#3, RS Senior, 6’1”, 175 lbs
2020-21 stats: 10.6 PPG, 4.4 APG, 39% 3P, 29.2 MPG, 31 games
Career stats: 11.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 40% 3P, 30.0 MPG, 143 games
Love him or hate him, Jordan Bohannon is back for a 6th season.
The Hawkeye guard has had quite the career for Iowa and currently sits atop the leaderboard in assists & three pointers. He has a very, very, outside chance of breaking the points total, too. (33 games at 20 PPG gets him close) He’s hit countless big shots in each of his five seasons and will be the go-to shooter on the roster with his wealth of experience. Let’s take a trip down memory lane...
First senior year:
Second senior year:
You want the guy who can be anywhere on the court and within his shooting range.
This upcoming season was never a guarantee for him to return. As a fifth year player who had potentially run his course as a Hawkeye, it certainly seemed over for him. He took part in Iowa’s senior night ceremony, after all. Yet after
CJ Fredrick’s surprise departure, Iowa was in dire need of a knockdown shooter. So Bohannon is taking advantage of the free COVID-19 season to try his hand at shooting guard alongside Joe Toussaint in the backcourt.
There are a few questions which exist in such a setup:
- Will he be able to find success on offense? This seems like the silliest one because of course he’ll be able to as shooting a basketball is just like riding a bicycle. You never lose that skill. If his time in his first senior season - when he was hampered by hip injuries - is any indication, it mayyy take some getting used to. Now, he wasn’t in his best shape those 10 games where he played primarily off ball, but he had some solid outings with double digit scoring in 4 games, including a season-high 20 against Texas Tech.
- What does it look like when he’s without his shooting stroke? This question speaks more to how Fran McCaffery will deploy J-Bo. He’s always gonna be a threat from deep but there are always going to be games & times when he simply doesn’t have it. Is McCaffery willing to let him sit for extended time to let a Tony Perkins come in and impact a game defensively? Can Bohannon find ways to be impactful on that side of the court?
- Does his role regress to what we’ve seen in the past? This is perhaps the most ripe for pitfalls, as it will require Fran to allow Joe Toussaint room to be himself without feeling like Bohannon is constantly looking over his shoulder.
Considering the state of Iowa’s roster prior to his summer decision to return to the squad, his shooting fills an absolutely huge hole this team needs. Fran has run offense through his shooting guard in the past - look no further than Peter Jok’s senior season - and Bohannon could provide a lower wattage version of that.
#15, Sophomore, F, 6’8”, 225 lbs
2020-21 stats: 7.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 51% FG, 18.0 MPG, 31 games
For as great as Garza & Joe Wieskamp were for Iowa last season, neither really offered the flat-out intrigue of Keegan Murray. I hesitate to write this through the frame of his preseason hype as a potential draft pick, but the fact he is on at least one board as a first rounder warrants mention. The Hawkeyes simply haven’t had a guy like Murray in a long while.
To be fair, there’s certainly a gap between that hype and his on-court production at 7 points & 5 boards a game. After a strong start to the season with his three, it dipped to just below 30% by season’s end. All of it can be explained as a guy doing his best to fill the gaps of the roster Iowa had last season. He had team high block and steal rates at 7.2% and 2.6%. He was the second best offensive rebounder after Jack Nunge went down. He moved the ball and rarely turned it over. And, he finished, at 60% from 2-point range.
The question for him is simple: can he scale? Will his solid freshman year numbers be able to grow with the increased time, the increased role, and of course, the increased focus on opponent scouting reports. After all, he’s the only Hawkeye on the preseason all-conference team.
Yet the highlights above show a guy always working but always within himself. He has an ability to drive with both hands. He’s anticipatory on offense and defense. He can be an exceptional roller when setting picks. He finishes through contact.
The sky is the limit for Keegan and while Iowa’s season doesn’t necessarily goes as his does, Iowa needs him to approach the hype he’s received.
In Bohannon and Murray, the Hawkeyes have two guys at much different junctures in their careers. Bohannon as the Dom Toretto-type roped into another go-round because of some outlandish new information. Murray is the young up-and-comer with tons of potential.
Together they could make it the best season yet.