Iowa’s Recipe for Surviving Without Aaron White

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 10th, 2015

Fran McCaffery built Iowa from Big Ten bottom-feeder into NCAA tournament team in three years. The Hawkeyes have now reached the Big Dance in two straight seasons and blew out Davidson in their most recent appearance. The challenge this winter will be to replace three seniors, most notably first-team all-Big Ten selection Aaron White. Repeating last year’s 12-6 conference record will probably be difficult with White, Josh Oglesby and Gabriel Olaseni all gone. While Iowa may be a notch below a slew of teams with legitimate Big Ten title aspirations, it’s still a threat in the league that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here’s the recipe for Iowa to reach March Madness without its superstar, White.

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell will be a major part of the team's core this year after the loss of Aaron White. (AP)

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell will be a major part of the team’s core this year after the loss of Aaron White. (Photo: AP)

  • An experienced, talented frontcourt: White is gone, but Jared Uthoff became a star playing next to him and earned a third-team all-conference selection last year. Now, the former Wisconsin forward is ready to be the go-to scorer. Last season, he shot a higher percentage from three than White (37.2 to White’s 35.6), tied for the team lead in blocks per game (1.6) and turned the ball over a minuscule 10 percent of the time. Frontcourt running mate Adam Woodbury may not score a lot, but the 7-footer is a tough defender who cleans up on the glass well (5.2 rebounds per game in just 20.5 minutes in 2014-15). Junior college transfer Dale Jones will provide depth off the bench, filling the role that Olaseni did last season.

  • Peter Jok: Uthoff’s shift to the four means that small forward Peter Jok will join the starting lineup. He has the talent to be a double-figure scorer and the length to be a plus defender and rebounder. Jok averaged 7.0 points per game as a sophomore last year. He’s not afraid to look to score, as he took 24.7 percent of Iowa’s shots when he was on the floor a season ago. He does need to improve on his 36 percent field goal percentage by taking smarter shots, but if Jok can be a good second option (think Uthoff to White last season), he will play a pivotal role for the Hawks. That second legitimate scoring threat will prevent defenses from going all-in on stopping Uthoff. To replace Jok off the bench, sophomore Dom Uhl will need to step up and become a primary scoring option among the reserves.

    Once again, Fran McCaffery has a squad to play with. (AP)

    Once again, the intense Fran McCaffery has a talented squad to play with. (Photo: AP)

  • Develop backcourt depth: Iowa’s five main backcourt players averaged between 2.7 and 7.4 points per game last season. Jok and starters Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons return, but the latter two aren’t counted on to score as much, although Gesell is still one of the better point guards in the Big Ten thanks to his 2.2 assist to turnover ratio from last season. Losing key reserve Oglesby means that McCaffery will need to rely on a quartet of freshmen to provide backcourt depth: Brady Ellingson, Andrew Fleming, Isaiah Moss and Christian Williams. Ellingson played seven games last year before sustaining a season-ending foot injury and taking a medical redshirt. He and Fleming, a former Tennessee Mr. Basketball in 2014, will need to grow up quickly. Moss was a late bloomer at Chicago powerhouse Simeon Career Academy and Williams was the lowest-rated of the four (according to, so both may need a little more time to develop. If at least two of them can provide adequate depth, Iowa suddenly has a solid nine-man rotation with Moss, Williams and freshmen forwards Ahmad Wagner and Brandon Hutton easing into the college game.

Bottom line: If Jok can break out and the backcourt can equal its 24.2 collective points per game from 2014-15, Iowa should be a .500 team in conference at worst. The obstacle will be its schedule. The non-conference portion includes early road tests at Marquette and Iowa State, as well as a home game vs. Florida State and a neutral-site game vs. Dayton. The Big Ten schedule is tough: Iowa’s home-and-homes are against Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Indiana and Penn State, and the Hawkeyes will take on Maryland and Ohio State on the road. If Iowa can get four or five wins against the league’s best, score one good non-conference road win and avoid losing to Rutgers, the tournament selection committee is likely to come calling yet again.

Patrick Engel (33 Posts)

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