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Player Debrief: Patrick McCaffery

It wasn’t always (ok, almost never) pretty, but it was frequently effective.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament- Indiana vs Iowa Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Player Debrief will be my look at each player on the Iowa roster, what they did over the season, things to look for next year, and my general observations from a couch in Denver.

Prior Debriefs:

Player Debrief: Keegan Murray
Player Debrief: Jordan Bohannon
Player Debrief: Kris Murray

This debrief is difficult to write.

I felt I was overly harsh on Patrick McCaffery over the course of the year, though there were times it felt completely justified. He kind of floats through games. His game is awkward - the weird floaters, the funky release, and sometimes he seems like he is overly caffeinated. He bounces around a lot, always fidgety. He doesn’t rebound well for his position. Part of this, of course, is his last name and 4-star pedigree. What if this guy can do more? Surely he can do more... was always percolating to the surface for me.

All of what I just wrote is true. Yet Patrick ended with a perfectly good year. The junior-to-be ended the year with 10.5 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 42/33/71 shooting splits. For a team that features Keegan Murray, had a second shooter in Jordan Bohannon, saw Kris Murray have moments of brilliance, and Tony Perkins show serious flashes late, his numbers are perfectly good. A good third or fourth guy on a team that hit a serious heater late in the year. Perfect.

And he had moments over the course of the year that edged the team toward wins. As Iowa and Rutgers were bludgeoning each other to death in their lone regular season meeting, Patrick was the one that tied the game with 27 seconds left before Courtney Green did Courtney Green things to steal that game in Rutgers favor. He probably had his best two-game stretch of the year a week after that, a 16 point-7 rebound effort in the double overtime loss at Penn State, then 18 points and 7 rebounds in the second Minnesota win, a game that went heavy with both Murray’s and Patrick in the front court that had Minnesota 100 percent sideways for the final 14 minutes of the game. That is probably his best stretch in an Iowa shirt so far. He wasn’t done there - he answered the call in the Indiana Big Ten Tournament game, going for 16 points. He also kept Iowa in range in the NCAA loss, scoring 18 points.

There is a good, useful player here that’s a good athlete, excellent in transition, and as we saw in the NCAA game, he can occasionally get hot and carry a team for brief stretches. When he’s with the right lineup and locked in, he can be tough defensively too. He’s clearly Iowa’s starting 3 next year.

What to look for next year

Added strength: Patrick’s health led to an unfortunate lag in his physical development. That said, he is WAY bigger than he was at the start of his career. If he can add another 10 pounds of muscle between now and next November, I think some of the awkwardness of his game is mitigated. Much of what makes him so awkward and leads to those strange floaters as he’s moving horizontally to the rim (high degree of difficulty shots) is that he gets knocked off his drive line too easily. That doesn’t happen as often with a stronger Patrick.

Rebounding: I’ve said in comments that it’s unfair to compare him to Joe Wieskamp, but Patrick must rebound better for his position. The rebounding woes Iowa had early in the year were team-wide, not just a Patrick problem, but your small forward has to average more than 3-4 rebounds a night. By comparison, Wieskamp’s career number was 5.8 rebounds a game, and his last year on campus he was close to 7 a game. Patrick doesn’t have to average 6 a game, but he needs to get more than 3. So often, Wieskamp would get in the scrum and battle for rebounds or go up in a crowd and snare the board over everyone. Patrick has the athleticism to do that too. It will only help a front court that, as currently constructed, has just Kris Murray, Filip Rebraca, Josh Ogundele, and Riley Mulvey at the 4-5. They must get more from him there.

Consistency: Patrick had some great games, as noted above. He showed real flashes. Now Iowa will need that every night. They’ll need his shooting to improve - his overall field goal percentage is low, though his 3-point shooting bumped 3 percentage points, and his free throw shooting went up slightly as well. The shooting is there despite his weird release. They’ll need his rebounding to improve. When I said above that he floated through games, it felt like he wasn’t always locked in mentally. Iowa needs this from him night in, night out.