With Iowa football getting back to spring practice this week, we took a way too early look at what to expect from the Hawkeyes this fall. If we’re going to be looking ahead, we figured why not REALLY look ahead? So throughout the week, we’re taking a way too early look at each of Iowa’s major programs for next season. Up next: the men’s basketball team.
So That Was An Interesting Afternoon...
I had written most of this article and we were hit with two very big Iowa Basketball news items. First, Jack Nunge is transferring. Second, Jordan Bohannon may come back for his 16th season (Sorry, Jess Settles, you’ve been dethroned). More on Bohannon later. Here’s what I had written earlier about Jack Nunge:
Nunge was having a very nice season before he was lost to injury. If there’s ever a case for wanting a kid to succeed, Jack is it. Nunge, when he’s on, is a dominant basketball player. Getting that consistency is part of the maturation of a basketball player. Nunge can play at the next level. Getting him back healthy will be the most important thing for the Hawkeyes’ 2021-22 season.
Gulp. Every Hawkeye fan in the world wants great things for Jack Nunge. We all wish Jack the best both on and off the court. Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye, Jack. Do great things and win at life. Your dad is proud of you.
The paint hasn’t completely dried on the 2020-21 Iowa basketball season; that said, let’s turn the page and look ahead. The Hawkeyes had a very good, yet frustrating season. That is probably in some dictionary under the entry “Iowa Hawkeye Fan”. The Hawks finished third in the Big Ten at 14-6. Solid, but underachieving, in my opinion. The Hawks won a first round game against Grand Canyon, but then got run out of the gym against Oregon. The only nice thing about getting our doors blown off was that it was such a landslide it hurt far less (at least for me).
Luka Garza (that was painful even typing that)
Ok, hold on to your hats. This is going to be a tough one. Luka Garza isn’t coming back. It would be glorious, and I’d love to see it, but the big fella needs to pursue his career as a professional basketball player. Luka gave us so many memories and he deservedly will be the face of Iowa Hawkeye basketball for pretty much eternity. The Hawkeyes are losing much more than Garza’s 24.1 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. Garza became Iowa’s identity. A possession without a Garza touch was a wasted possession unless the ball went through the basket. He was that pivotal to our success. The Hawks often looked like a different team when Luka was out of the game. Dear Fran, we still don’t like sitting Luka in the first half at Indiana. Sigh. Anyway, much more can be said about Luka. BHGP will put up articles this offseason to give Garzilla the props he deserves. He will get much in the way of recognition, but he deserves even more. I’ve seen people on Twitter have said we took Garza for granted and we will be surprised how much we miss him. Ummmmmmmm, no. If you didn’t see how special he was you should take up knitting. No offense to knitters. Carver has a special section right up front for you, so there’s that. Anyway, goodbye our sweet Luka. I wonder how many Lukas will be showing up in Hawkville through the years. My son is named Hayden by the way.
Jordan Bohannon will go down as an all-time Hawkeye. He is the career leader in assists (not bad for not being a point guard), he had stretches where he knocked so many shots down it was dizzying, he purposely didn’t break Chris Street’s free throw record, and he signed and left his shoes at Hilton with a message for the Clowns. Classic. Jordan will go on to be successful in something, there’s no doubt about this. Jordan just posted that if the Name, Image, and Likeness bill passes he will return next year. If he were to return, I personally think Jordan should come off the bench as a shooter. The postseason proved that Iowa needs to re-invent itself and bringing JBo off the bench is what this team needs.
There is a bit of buzz around Wiesy moving on after this year. So much that I have him in the loss column. Joe has had a very nice career for the Hawks. In my opinion he should come back for his senior year. He most definitely can play in The League. I feel that being The Guy and having the ball in his hands more next year would go a long way in his development. He can continue to get stronger, improve his finishing at the basket, and leadership skills. If he does move on, this will be the second biggest loss after Garza.
The cupboard isn’t bare. That’s the good news. The Hawkeyes have some very nice pieces returning on their roster. The bad news is that I worry that Fran will never build a team around defense. I’d love to see a lineup of Joe Toussaint, Tony Perkins, CJ Fredrick, Patrick McCaffery, and Keegan Murray. (I had a healthy Jack Nunge instead of Patrick here) That could be a nice defensive unit. I am happy with the job Fran has done. I however had the Hawks beating Oregon and then being done in all of my brackets. In March you can’t hope to outscore people. That never has been a successful formula, and it never will be a successful formula. If Bohannon does return, Connor McCaffery, who I like, and JBo paired together are two non-plus defenders (I went with a positive spin on that versus negative (kinda). I’d rather see Joey T, Ahron Ulis, Tony Perkins, and CJ Fredrick getting those guard minutes. If Wiesy returns he of course is our best player.
If you follow me on Twitter you know that I’m a Joey T fan. Is he perfect? No. Can he do things that no one else on our team can do? A resounding yes. It’s up to Fran and staff to coach him up. Joe should have played more this year. Look at his game against Michigan State (and others). He’s a difference maker. He’s a tough defender, he can penetrate, dish, and he looks to push the ball with the pass in transition. He and Pat McCaffery have a terrific connection on and off the court and it shows with PMac running the floor and Joey T hitting him for a dunk. Toussaint is a physical, athletic, tough dude. More of this.
Tony got some nice, although inconsistent, clock this year. He was put into some big situations and it didn’t seem like he was out of place. He’s probably the player I’m most excited about next year. I looked at quite a bit of his high school video and he can flat out play. He would be an upgrade defensively and the dude attacks on the offensive end. I think Perkins could be Iowa’s next star.
CJ looked like a shell of himself after he was injured this year. He is an excellent shooter, passer, and he understands the game. He can play some nice perimeter defense. I hope CJ isn’t the type of player that is continuously injured. That would be a shame for him and for the program. We saw this year the difference a healthy CJ Fredrick makes. A healthy CJ would provide 3 more wins for next year’s team.
Wowza did Keegan Murray have himself a year! He might have been the sneakiest player in the country. He had portions of games where he took over. Keegan has incredible length and tenacity. He made his mark rebounding, but he also showed the ability to hit the three, attack the basket, and defend. As he continues to put on weight and strength he will become a huge piece of the Hawkeye puzzle. I see no way he isn’t a three-year starter. There is room at the next level for 6’8” players who can do everything. I am a card-carrying member of the Keegan Murray fan club. His dad Kenyon was a teammate of Chris Street and he was also one of the best Hawkeye defenders over the last 30 years.
Patrick had an up-and-down season. He started out pretty well and then he dipped, only to play his best game against the Oregon Ducks. Patrick has confidence. He plays with a little bit of Pistol Pete Maravich; he takes some flying shots that look a little crazy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s our leading scorer two of the next three years. He attacks the basket well, he runs the court very well. As he adds strength, he will be a problem. He needs to continue working on the consistency of his outside shot. Patrick has terrific length for Iowa’s 3⁄4 court press and he’s a tough player on the top of a zone defense. Once word of Jack Nunge’s transfer hit, I put PMac in the starting lineup.
I’m a CMac fan. He’s intelligent, basketball IQ is off the charts, and he’s passionate. Connor played through an injury this year. I’m sure that limited him defensively and offensively. I love having him on our team. I don’t necessarily love him in our starting lineup, but he’d do anything for the Hawkeyes and that makes him awesome in my eyes.
Ahron didn’t play much this year; I thought he should have played more. When he did play he looked like he belonged. Ulis has nice size and athleticism. It will be fun and interesting to see what Ulis brings to the table when he gets consistent minutes.
Kris was the forgotten Murray this year, but you know that Kenyon, Kris, and Keegan are going to be battling this offseason. He will find a niche, whether it is rebounding, defense, or whatever the team needs. My guess he will be one of those guys that does a lot of the little things that will make your basketball team better. In my opinion length is more important on the basketball court than height. Kris Murray has that. Pair that with an understanding of the game and desire and only good things happen.
The next Big Fella is the biggest unknown in recent Iowa Hawkeyes basketball memory. Josh showed a few things this year when we did see him. He looked better physically later in the year than at the beginning. That’s a first step but also a very important step. He’s a big body and if he can contribute next year as a defender, rebounder, and passer he will have had a very successful year. With the news of Jack Nunge’s transfer, the development of Big Josh O just became one of the biggest offseason things to watch for this squad (in addition to a transfer big coming in).
We didn’t see much of Michael Baer, but Hawk fans know that if he’s half the player his brother was he is making the team better. Also, with his brother now on the Hawkeye staff, Michael will be putting in the work both mentally and physically to improve his game. Iowa’s depth is so far removed from the Todd Lickliter years it’s ridiculous. Credit to Fran.
Iowa’s only incoming recruit is Payton Sandfort. The kid can flat out shoot from deep. He often didn’t ripple the net on his threes that I watched film on. He may have a role on next year’s squad with his ability to shoot the basketball. Especially if Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp don’t return. If you can put the ball through the hoop, you can get minutes. Here is a video of Sandfort’s senior season. I like how high he shoots the basketball. This coupled with his height makes him tough to guard.
Transfer Portal - We Need a Big!
The Hawkeyes needed a post before the Jack Nunge news came out. Now it is paramount. Iowa may and could go with a “smaller” lineup (although PMac and Keegan Murray have great length), but there are times and matchups where you need a big body in the middle. Iowa and Luka Garza proved that the Hawks will feed a low post and also let him shoot from distance. If this isn’t a tremendous opportunity for a transfer, I don’t know what is. Fran has a lot to offer. Go get a gamer, Fran!
Editor’s Note: More to come on this soon.
Prognosis for Next Season
In a perfect world Luka Garza decides he wants to break every record in the history of college basketball and he returns to the Hawks. We then should build a team defense around him with Joey T, Tony Perkins, Wiesy (please come back), and Keegan Murray and the Hawks would make the Sweet 16. Another note to Fran, defense is important, not an afterthought. Alas, Luka will move on. Hopefully Joe Wieskamp gives it one more go and sticks around. If Jordan Bohannon returns I’d like to see him as a shooter off the bench. I’d like for this roster/program to reinvent itself as a team that can get to the Sweet 16. In order to do this we have to play defense, rebound, take charges, hustle, and push the ball in transition. This is a possibility. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening. I see our roster and lineups being geared toward outscoring our opponents. We know how that turns out. Either way, I can’t wait for next year and I love my Hawkeyes. Let’s Go Hawks!