As the Iowa Hawkeyes progress through their offseasons, media availability comes and goes. Yesterday, a few Hawks met with assorted media and had some pretty interesting things to say. Jordan Bohannon, Joe Toussaint, and Ahron Ulis talked about the return of J-Bo and what it means for their respective roles. Multiple guys alluded to changes in style of play. It was also a reminder as to just how young the bulk of the team is.
That’s where we’ll start.
Jordan Bohannon talked about how, “guys like (Ahron Ulis) and (Tony Perkins) who were here last year haven’t been to Breslin Center with 20,000 fans.” It was honestly an eye-opening bit of research to crack open KenPom for the first time in a couple months and see that Iowa returns just three players who have battled through a Big Ten season with butts in seats: Bohannon, Joe Toussaint, & Connor McCaffery.
Departures via draft & the transfer market means that about 33% of Iowa’s returning minutes from last year experienced the full conference experience.
It really hammers home the role that Bohannon will have to take on.
Shifting off ball
I remember back in his recruitment that Bohannon was sold as much more of a combo guard than he played throughout his career to this point. This is not a shot at how his career has turned out so far (how could you knock the all-time three point makes & assists leader at a school??) but that playing off-ball alongside Connor McCaffery was very much on the table early in his career.
Now it’s his 2021-22 role and the way he puts it, a season like Peter Jok’s senior campaign is very much on the table: “Peter Jok my freshman year was someone who could hit a clutch basket and he averaged plus-20 points per game. Now I have to step into that role.”
It’ll be a balance to strike, because there were times Iowa really struggled throughout that 2017 season despite Peter Jok filling it up. They won 5 of 10 games where he scored 25 points or more and just 3 of 8 against teams from multi-bid leagues.
Yet both Toussaint & Ulis seem excited about having an unabashed gunner on this team - wasn’t that semi-regular criticism from some of Iowa’s shooters last season? - alongside his leadership. From Ulis:
“Everything was cool; we talked about it. It’s actually good that he’s coming back. Some people look at it as a bad thing but it’s good. He’s a leader, he’s older, been around so he knows a lot and he’s a great shooter. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Toussaint noted he was “in the middle of not knowing what his role would be” before receiving a call from Bohannon to assure he wouldn’t get in the way of “running the show.”
More hectic style of play?
Each of Patrick McCaffery, Toussaint, and Ulis talked about an adjustment in style of play. Toussaint mentioned increasing ball pressure, particular in the full court. What went a little unsaid was that those are skills he & Ulis have which Bohannon does not.
With just Bohannon returning as a pretty reliable scorer and the nation’s lowest turnover percentage very likely to increase, Iowa will need to generate much more offense with their defense. Last season, the Hawks were in the bottom 40 of forcing turnovers but it’s easy see guys like Toussaint, Pat, & Keegan using their speed and length to flip Iowa into a much more respectable quartile.
Additionally, with the multidimensionality of Iowa’s presumed starters, the defense can turn into offense really quick. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that makes the Hawks an even higher paced outfit than they were last season. They ranked 93rd in adjusted tempo according to KenPom and 4th in Big Ten-only play.
If they maintain a semblance of efficiency, could it mean they put up even more points/game than last season?
Odds and ends
- Toussaint and Ulis both alluded to long-standing injuries which were taken care of in the offseason. JT was particularly excited to mention he was playing much closer to pain free after removing some bone spurs from his ankle. He didn’t want to make excuses for his play last season, but the injury feels like it was very likely the cause of a lot of his blown tires where he jump-stopped with a little too much momentum. Ulis, on the other hand, said his wrist had bothered him for years before learning it was a torn ligament.
- Riley Mulvey is an eager beaver, if you catch the last couple minutes of the video above. He thinks the biggest area he can impact is the defense. He said making the reclassification has allowed him to accelerate the improvement of his game. Josh Ogundele was his “welcome to the Big Ten” moment.
- Talk of Bohannon taking on Jok’s role had me doing some math...he’s just 668 points behind Luka Garza’s #1 scoring mark. That’d mean just over a 20 PPG, 33 game season would give him the record. I don’t think that would be the best version of this team, though. Something like 15 or 16 PPG with four guys at/above double digits (Keegan, Toussaint, Pat, Rebraca?) feels right. It’d resemble the scoring distribution of the 2018-19 team.
- There’s also a distinct underdog vibe this team has talked about and I certainly understand it. One area which I don’t think is underrating them is Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, where they’re a 10-seed and one of the last four teams receiving byes. I would be thrilled with that outcome. Get in the tournament, then roll the dice.