Big Ten Team Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Where we left off: Last time we saw Iowa, the Hawkeyes were getting run over for 108 points by Oregon in the second round of the NIT. Of course, it was an accomplishment for the program to even get back to the NIT after a promising season, and now, with a number of stars back, Iowa is looking to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fran McCaffery has done a good job of turning the team around, and now, in year three, expectations are high. Clearly McCaffery has his team on the right track, but is this the year Iowa finally makes it back to the NCAA Tournament? There is a lot of inexperience on parts of the court, but enough talent is certainly there for the Hawkeyes to make a run.

Fran McCaffery Has His Team on the Right Track (credit: AP)

Positives: Iowa’s biggest strength this winter will be its depth, and in fact, that could represent the most difficult part of McCaffery’s job. The Hawkeyes may have a hard time finding playing time for everyone with so much returning experience and new talent. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White are locks to start, and they’ll likely be joined by junior forward Melsahn Basabe and freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but after that, the distribution of minutes gets foggy. Junior forward Zach McCabe will likely see considerable minutes, as will freshman center Adam Woodbury, but sophomore center Gabe Olaseni, who McCaffery calls the team’s most improved player, will also be slated for some time. In the backcourt, sophomore shooting specialist Josh Oglesby, freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May will all push for playing time. There are a lot of different looks that this team can show, and while it might be difficult to figure out playing time, that’s a very good problem to have.

Negatives: How good can this team be in the paint? Iowa struggled with a lack of size last year, as Olaseni was still very raw and not ready for significant minutes, forcing the Hawkeyes to play with a small lineup. This year Iowa expects Olaseni to play a much bigger role as it adds 7’1″ freshman center Adam Woodbury, who turned down North Carolina to stay in-state. Woodbury is clearly very talented and should have a bright future, but it’s unclear how successful he can be right away, as big men typically have a tougher time adapting quickly to the college game than guards. Will Woodbury be able to post up down low? Will he be able to fight for rebounds with stronger, more experienced forwards and centers? Time will tell, but that seems to be the biggest question for the Hawkeyes heading into the season.

Best Case: We already know that Marble, White and Basabe can play, but if the freshmen live up to their recruiting hype immediately, this team could be dangerous. Gesell will have an easier time adjusting to the Big Ten, though playing point guard as a freshman isn’t easy by any means. However, he looked very good in summer league and McCaffery has all but proclaimed him the starter. The real x-factor is Woodbury, who has the potential to someday be a star, but needs to put on some weight to be successful in the Big Ten. If he is comfortable right away and gives Iowa a big presence down low on both ends of the floor, the Hawkeyes have the potential to become like Indiana last year and make a surprise run in the Big Ten and push for a decent NCAA Tournament seed.

Worst Case: Iowa basically saw its worst case scenario come true in the non-conference season last year, as things seemingly fell apart. The lowest point of the season was a 16-point home loss to Campbell — yes, the Fighting Camels — but losses to Clemson, Northern Iowa and Iowa State were just as crushing. If Iowa can’t improve its defense, the freshmen can’t get going quickly and a star player like White slumps, the Hawkeyes could fall apart again in the non-conference season, ending any real chance they have for a bid for at-large consideration in the NCAA Tournament before they even start conference play.

Projected Starting Lineup:

  • PG — Mike Gesell (Fr)
  • CG — Devyn Marble (Jr)
  • SF — Aaron White (So)
  • PF — Melsahn Basabe (Jr)
  • C — Adam Woodbury (Fr)

Key Reserves: Anthony Clemmons (Fr, PG), Josh Oglesby (So, G), Zach McCabe (Jr, F), Gabe Olaseni (So, C), Eric May (Sr, G)

The Lineup: Iowa’s starting lineup could go a number of different ways depending on the game. Our projected lineup assumes they want to go big and play Woodbury at center, but there is also the possibility of playing McCabe at the four and Basabe at the five if McCaffery wishes to go small. White will play both the three and the four this year, so that also gives the Hawkeyes flexibility. There won’t be a set lineup for each game because this team has the potential to show a number of different looks. However, the most standard lineup is the one we have projected.

KTrahan (60 Posts)

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