IOWA CITY, Iowa – It seems like an annual inquiry for Fran McCaffery. People want to know how he’s going to find minutes for a deep roster of capable players.
That subject popped up again last week when Tyler Cook announced he’d be returning for his junior season instead of staying in the NBA Draft. Isaiah Moss did the same, although that was much more expected.
It meant Iowa would be returning its Top 9 scorers from a year ago. It’s also adding a Top 50 recruit in Muscatine (IA) High wing Joe Wieskamp along with Kentucky combo guard C.J. Fredrick.
It’s not something bogging down Iowa coach Fran McCaffery at the moment, but he’s aware.
“There’s nothing you can do now. In terms of the rotations, that will be determined over time. You always have the possibility of red shirting one or two players if you think you are overloaded. But right now I’m looking at everybody equally and we’ll figure it out,” he said.
McCaffery mentioned that his four double figure scorers from last season – Cook, Moss, Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza – had earned the right to be in the rotation and get significant minutes next year. They’d likely start.
“We’ll go from there after that,” he said.
McCaffery has been comfortable with a deep roster and spreading out minutes, much to the chagrin of some onlookers who think he’d benefit from shorting his rotations. He referenced the departure right before last season of Christian Williams and injuries as to why he prefers depth.
That doesn’t mean we’ll see him going 12 deep in 2018-19. Perhaps part of the difficulties the team experienced on the defensive end last year resulted from guys being shuffled in and out of the lineup. That can hurt connectivity on that end.
McCaffery, his staff and their players are studying what went wrong and how to best fix it.
“The first thing is that everybody has to know and understand that change has to be made. We have to do some things differently and it’s not typically in any one particular area. When you have a losing record, there are a lot of factors,” McCaffery said.
He went onto say that the numbers show that the offense was good and the defense was bad.
“We had a young team. We had some goofy injuries. What we have to do is recommit to each other,” McCaffery said.
He’s put an emphasis on increasing the players’ strength and conditioning. The coaches have been working on fundamentals, particularly on defense.
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How everything comes together determines who plays and for how long. The Hawkeyes hope individual maturity translates into a more mature team and that those parts push each other to be better.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the roster and analyze how things might play out with what we know today.
We’ll start with what McCaffery spoke about. It appears the four leading scores from a year ago head into the season as likely starters. That’s Bohannon and Moss in the backcourt with Cook and Garza in the front court. So, who’s the other starter?
Nicholas Baer, Jack Nunge and Ahmad Wagner all received chances in that spot last season, none of them able to solidify himself as the guy. Wagner left for Kentucky to play football but the other two will be competing to start.
Wieskamp also figures into the mix as does Maishe Dailey. It’s a guard/wing’s game these days and the Hawkeyes might be better off going this way. It spreads the floor and affords Cook and Garza more room to operate in the paint.
Baer has shown he’s more productive coming off the bench. He won the Big Ten’s sixth man of the year for ’16-17 has performed best in short spurts.
Nunge didn’t look comfortable playing on the wing last season and must show he can be productive there. He and Baer combined to go 42 of 132 (31.8 percent) on three-pointers.
Dailey shot 28 of 72 (38.9) from behind the arc. At 6-foot-7, he showed ability to guard multiple positions. His 52 assists were the most by a non-starter.
Juniors Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener will be looking for time in the front court after averaging 16.4 and 10.4 minutes, respectively, a year ago. From where their increased minutes come is the question.
Connor McCaffery, Fran’s oldest son, played in four games last season as a freshman before complications from mononucleosis sidelined him for the rest of the campaign. The guard received a medical redshirt.
Fran McCaffery says Fredrick can play both guard spots. He also could be a candidate for the redshirt the coach talked about.
So, if you’re counting at home, that’s 12 scholarship players with a chance to get into the rotation. Can that work with only 200 available minutes?
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The math is difficult.
Cook and Bohannon should combine for the 60 they did last year. Garza and Moss probably will team up for around 50. That leaves 90 for eight guys.
Let’s say Baer, who played 21.4 minutes last season, see his minutes drop to 15 and Wieskamp, who I think will start, plays 20, which might be conservative. We’re down to 55.
Nunge, Dailey, Kriener and Pemsl combined for about 55 minutes a game last season. Connor McCaffery played 13.3 in his four contests.
As you can see, making the minutes work for so many guys is difficult. And, we still have Fredrick.
Let’s look at it this way:
Bohannon (30 minutes)
We could move some of the minutes around. Chop some from the top of the list and give them to the bottom. Still, you see how hard it is playing 11 guys and we’re assuming Fredrick will red shirt.
As McCaffery said, the rotations will be determined over time. Matchups will play a role as could injuries.
The coach has his work cut out for him in making everybody happy while trying to turn around a 14-19 season. It will be interesting to see how things shake out.