Howe: As the Hawkeye World Turns…
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Yes, the headline is dated. I’m old. Google it, Millennial.
While we’re in the way-back machine, let’s discuss the proverb stating that April showers bring May flowers. While that is true, no matter what happens in April, this month is traditionally dry for those of us following Iowa athletics.
Rick Heller is helping. Hawkeye baseball is relevant again. Fans are flocking to Banks Field.
Beyond that, it’s mostly crickets.
That leaves us folks covering UI sports digging deep for story ideas. You see a lot of Top 10 and Mt. Rushmore lists. They’re fun.
That’s sort of what you’re about to read if you haven’t already moved on to gardening or mowing the grass. In lieu of writing on one topic, here are my thoughts on happenings in the Hawkeye World:
Moss will be missed...
Isaiah Moss announced last week that he’s leaving the Iowa basketball program after starting for three seasons. Coach Fran McCaffery said the Chicago native was looking for an expanded role.
That could leave you scratching your head when considering Moss’ 24.1 minutes per game ranked fourth on the team, and that he started in all of the Hawkeyes’ 68 games the last two seasons and 96 of the previous 102. When you look closer, you can see why he may be concerned with his playing time going forward.
Moss was losing minutes, mostly in the second halves and down the stretch of games, to bench players like Nicholas Baer, Connor McCaffery and Ryan Kriener. Fran McCaffery rolled with what he felt was his best lineup in a given contest, and Moss was watching from the sideline more often than he probably liked.
While Baer graduated and Tyler Cook left for professional basketball, Moss likely was wondering if his role would expand here. His minutes stayed the same from his sophomore to junior seasons, and the program was adding two true freshmen and three redshirts to the mix, all of whom could realistically challenge for rotation spots.
It’s worth noting that Moss was losing some minutes to the coach’s son, Connor McCaffery, last season, and that his sibling, four-star prospect Patrick McCaffery, was joining the program this summer. Whether the threat real or perceived, he might have felt threatened by that.
While I’ve seen Moss’ exit spun as a positive for Iowa, it’s not. It hurts losing an experienced, productive player in a game of college basketball rife with turnover. Assuming the same or better production from his replacement is short-sighted.
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If you’re among the people believing Moss and Cook leaving the program is addition by subtraction, you’d be wrong.
We opened up the column talking about it being a slow time around here. The attention paid to NFL mock drafts a year before the actual process takes place serves as more evidence. They offer the caveat that they’re way too early, yet still suck us in.
Looking around, cases are being made for Hawkeyes A.J. Epenesa, Tristan Wirfs, Alaric Jackson and Nate Stanley as first-round picks. Let’s hope that’s the case. Just don’t count on it.
Four first-round picks would double the most Hawkeyes ever taken in the same draft. Alabama and Clemson only saw three of their players chosen that high this year.
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Here’s my prediction: Epenesa is a first-round lock. Beyond that, we’re throwing darts.
Iowa received disappointing news on the basketball front Tuesday, learning it was out of the running for three transfers. Notre Dame’s D.J. Harvey announced he was choosing Vanderbilt ahead of the Hawkeyes, both of whom he visited last week. Brothers Sam and Joey Hauser of Marquette trimmed their list to Michigan State, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.
They all would have been sitting out next season barring an unlikely NCAA waiver. They certainly could have helped in practice, however.
The losses of Cook, Moss and Maishe Dailey, who transferred to Akron, leave Iowa with 10 scholarship players. The Hawkeyes will need walk-on help and good health for practice purposes.
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Moss and Cook leaving opens up two starting positions. Jordan Bohannon, Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp return to the Top 5 and should retain their spots.
So, who joins them?
I’ll guess Connor McCaffery in the backcourt and Cordell Pemsl at forward. I’ll also predict a lot of zone defense.
Extra credit: Nick Niemann will be starting at middle linebacker for the season opener against Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 31.
-National player of the year Megan Gustafson began her WNBA career, reporting to the WNBA’s Dallas Wings last week.
Iowa fans have three chances to see her play in person around the region. The Wings are in Chicago on July 7 and August 29. They travel to Minneapolis on Aug. 22.
-One could argue Heller is the top coach at Iowa right now. The Hawkeyes are trending toward their third NCAA appearance in five seasons, doubling the number of bids in the history of the program.
-New Iowa football assistant Jay Niemann is slotting into the recruiting area previously occupied by Reese Morgan, the retiring coach he replaced. A native of the state, Niemann should feel comfortable within its borders. He’ll also stretch out into the Dakotas and Nebraska.