Hoops Lineup Looking Up

April 25, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

With the commitment of Anthony Hubbard & Gabe Olaseni, the Iowa basketball program has added significant pieces to its rebuilding puzzle.

Let’s take a look at the known and shed some light on the unknowns as it relates to the personnel Fran McCaffery will have available to him next year and how this team will look…

THE KNOWN

Matt Gatens: Despite his three-point shooting percentage numbers last two years (.328 & .331) Gatens is a good outside shooter. The biggest problem Gatens has faced the last two years is his being the lone legitimate three-point shooter on the team. He has Jake Kelly on the team as a freshman, and Kelly was a player that grew into a dynamic scorer, someone that could attack the rim and thereby forced wing defenders to sag off of Gatens a bit, as well as being someone that could knock down the three as well. Teams had to allocate perimeter resources to both Kelly and Gatens. Plus, Gatens had a bit of an unknown factor to him as a freshman. He made nearly 41% of his treys that year, and the past two years, when Iowa’s personnel level was at its lowest collective point in three decades, he has suffered. He can still shoot the ball well and I think he is going to show that on the court this year.

Melsahn Basabe: At worst, Basabe was the 4th best freshman in the league last year and the second best freshman big. Entering next year, he might be the second best inside scorer in the Big Ten behind Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. Basabe averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds per game last year in just 24 minutes per contest. He scored in double figures in 11 of his final 14 regular season games as opposed to just six double figure games in the first 16 games of the year, all but four of those games coming against teams from outside the Big Ten. In short, he got better as the year went on and as the competition got better. Also take into account that as it relates to a polished offensive game, Basabe has a world of improving he can do and he showed a great foundation for being able to add on what he did this year. I don’t think its far fetched to think he can average 15 and 8 this year, and there have been few Iowa players to have done that over the past three decades. His body control is exceptional and he wound up hitting more than 70% of his free throws. The sky is the limit for him, but he is going to draw a lot of attention heading into this year.

Bryce Cartwright: He led the Big Ten in assists at nearly seven per game and averaged 11 points per game for the entire year. He grew in confidence as the season wore on and he went from being somewhat of a liability in November and December to being ‘the guy’ at the end of the year. He will enter this season full of confidence that this is ‘his team’ and if he puts in the work on his three-point shooting and can improve in that area (shot just .275 last year), it will expand the floor for Basabe and all of his teammates.

When you look at these three players that return for Iowa, they are the heart and soul of the program for next year. They combined to average 34.5 points per game last year and are among the top 13 returning scorers in the league. I have not done the research on this yet, but you may not find many three returning players on any one Big Ten team that bring back the scoring these three do.

Eric May: Averaged just under 8 points per game and really faded down the stretch for Iowa. It appeared that May was suffering from a confidence problem, as he just was not in synch over the final month or two of the year, failing to score in double figures in any of Iowa’s final eight games. He has the ability to be a solid player for Iowa next year and has a good stroke from beyond the arc, as he hit .394 from downtown last year. Iowa is going to need all of the outside shooting it can get in 2011-2012 to open the lane up for Basabe et al. We all know he has excellent athletic ability and he is no where near his peak.

Andrew Brommer: At the end of the Todd Lickliter era, I wrote that I felt Brommer had some considerable potential. He just didn’t get enough time on the court to be able to relax and get in the flow of the game. Granted, he typically made mistakes that brought the hook, but he ran the floor well for a big man and when he did relax and ‘slow down’ to normal speed, he had the foundation of some decent offense. With Brommer, it’s sort of like a record player. There were three speed settings on old school record players, and you could play a record at a high speed and it would sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. When you played it at its normal speed, it sounded good, as it was supposed to. When Brommer plays at the proper RPM’s, he has flashed some positives and more than just spot duty positives. George Brett once said that the secret for a lot of young baseball players was to ‘try a little easier’. I think that applies to Brommer and last season he had ample opportunity to acclimate himself to the Big Ten game. If he can develop this off season and learn to relax and play within himself and the pace of the game, or try a little easier, I think he could be a key role player. I am not going to predict All Big Ten stuff from him, but he can be a guy that can average 7 and 5 for you playing 18 to 20 minutes a game.

Zach McCabe: He averaged just under 6 points and 4 rebounds per game last year in about 20 minutes per game. Those numbers must increase and I think they will. He has a good head for the game and can be an inside and outside threat. He’s not a #1, #2 or #3 option in the Big Ten as far as pecking order for scoring at this point in time and won’t be next year, but this next year will tell a lot as to the type of player he can become. He attempted the second most three-point shots this past year so he needs to work on that area of his game, as he made just over 28% of his treys.

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Devyn Marble: This kid has a lot of upside and I am not sure when we are going to see him blossom. I don’t know that I would predict that for next year; it might be his junior season, the same with McCabe. He scored 5.7 points per game in just under 20 minutes per game of playing time. He was rail thin as a freshman and will put a lot of work in the weight room this year and next. He showed flashes of brilliance in traffic, and the beginnings of a dribble-drive game. His length will continue to be something that creates problems in the passing lanes for opposing defenses and I really hope he takes defense to heart this summer because that is where he can absolutely have a big effect next year on the court.

Devon Archie: This is another player that just needs to slow down a bit. He can be a strong presence on the defensive end of the floor and he has some decent ball and body skills with his back to the basket. He has shown to be pretty quick on the block and if he can harness that energy to where he controls his body and doesn’t get ahead of his brain, he can serve a role for this team. Now, he might be the worst free throw shooter I have ever seen, but we are talking about a guy who might play 8 to 10 minutes a game.

THE UNKNOWN

Anthony Hubbard: Juco All American, averaged 21 points and 11 boards per game last year. Very good off the dribble and aggressive at attacking the basket. Will get to the free throw line a lot next year, but has not been good from the stripe. Not a great outside shooter and attempted less than 40 trey’s last year at the Juco level. Strong on the glass, strong overall, which is what you would expect from a 26-year old man. Very athletic and will provide a nice combination on the block with Basabe. I am not saying he is like Roy Marble Senior, because Roy was one of the best to ever play at Iowa. But Marble made his living 16 feet in, attacking the glass, scoring in traffic and not from the perimeter. I think that is what you will see from Hubbard. If he can defend the 6-7 to 6-8 players in this league, his value goes even higher. Iowa simply has not had a player with his skill set in some time, and his versatility is going to help most every player on the team have an easier time doing what they are good at.

Aaron White: 6-8 athletic player that can score in traffic, get out and run and hit the perimeter shot. I am very interested in seeing him arrive on campus…based on the tape I have seen, he reminds me of a Robbie Hummel, without Hummel’s dead-eye accuracy.

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Josh Oglesby: Three point shooter and good height at 6-5. Will help this team shore up a huge weakness next year, and that is another consistent threat from beyond the arc. He is going to get opportunities to play early and often as long as he knocks down the shots.

Gabe Olaseni: He’s a player whose biggest strengths at this time are on the defensive end and in transition. He can run the floor like a deer and has excellent athleticism at 6-9, and could turn into a very good shot blocker. His offensive game needs some work, but he’s only been playing the game seriously for four years. He gives Fran McCaffery another piece to mix and match lineups depending on what speed Iowa wishes to employ. 8 to 10 minutes per game next season seems about right and he will challenge Archie and potentially Brommer for more time. I don’t expect to see him on the floor a lot, but he will be worked into the mix.

Iowa fans were excited to see some uptempo basketball return to Carver Hawkeye last year, although the team still wound up averaging 67.2 points per game. They will be average more than 70 this year as you will see more fast breaks and secondary breaks. McCaffery has more pieces with which to play his style and players like Hubbard and perhaps White will give Iowa a myriad of combinations depending on what the game situation dictates. Cartwright is the single most important player on the team due to the lack of options at point guard behind him, but the addition of Hubbard is like the queen piece on a chessboard; he can do a lot of things that can cause opponents damage.

All four newcomers will be counted upon, so there is a lot of speculation as to what this team may look like. That being said, I think a .500 season should be expected and some type of ‘March Situation’, to quote Steve Alford, should also be expected. Whether that is the CBI, NIT or some other acronym that doesn’t matter as much as the NCAA will be the big question.

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Most Big Ten teams have lost a lot and the league will not be nearly as tough next season as it was this past season. Michigan may lose its talented point guard to the NBA…Illinois lost two double figure scorers including its point guard. Northwestern’s John Shurna is looking at the NBA…Talor Battle is gone from Penn State…Michigan State has to find their mojo…Minnesota seems to be treading water, having plateaued under Tubby Smith…Purdue loses Johnson and Moore.

There isn’t a ‘scary’ team in this league for next year and Iowa is going to be a much better team.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Basabe
Gatens
Cartwright
Hubbard
Brommer

BENCH

Shooter: Oglesby
Wing: Marble, May, McCabe, White
Paint: Archie, Olaseni

Iowa still has onescholarship open. It would be great if McCaffery could land a point guard, but the pickings seem slim. Then again, Iowa didn’t land Cartwright until June of last summer.

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