LAST SEASON

Iowa had been gearing up for 2013-14 for awhile and seemed set to finally have a breakthrough type season for Fran McCaffrey. Despite an impressive start to the season, Iowa struggled with consistency all year long and though they did manage to squeak into a Tourney bid (after finishing 9-9 in sixth place in the conference), they were a quick out, losing to Tennessee in a play-in game by 13 in OT. With some key pieces gone from that team, including leading scorer Devyn Marble, the Hawks were something of an unknown coming into last season. They had some nice players returning, most notably Aaron White, but Marble was such a dominant part of their offense it was reasonable to wonder how the team would adjust to playing without him.

As it turns out the whole was greater than the sum of the individual parts in many ways. After a decently impressive non conference (highlighted by a road victory over North Carolina) Iowa won their final 6 conference games to end up with a 12-6 league mark and a second consecutive Tournament bid. They won a first round game this time before falling in the Round of 32 to Gonzaga. In total, it was a successful year for McCaffrey. His team was competitive the whole way through, were tougher to guard due to having a more balanced attack, and found ways to win some tight games, something which had posed a serious issue for his first several additions of Hawkeye teams. The Hawks lose a couple of key pieces in White and big man Gabriel Olaseni but return 4 starters and welcome a large recruiting class. Thus, there’s reason for continued optimism in Iowa City.

RETURNING PLAYERS

Jarrod Uthoff is a 6’9″ senior forward who is among the more versatile players in the entire conference. He was second on the Hawks’ team in both scoring and rebounding last season, posing an effective tag team partner to the similarly sized and skilled White. Uthoff shot 43/37% as a junior making him a very difficult cover. He has a quick release and good accuracy from deep but he handles the ball well and can use his size to post up smaller players closer to the rim. He’s not a guy many media types talk about but I think he’ll be one of the better all around players in the entire league and is a good darkhorse candidate for a first team All Big Ten spot, given everything he can do.

Mike Gesell is a 6’2″ senior point guard who hasn’t quite lived up to advance billing but has matured into a decently effective floor leader for Iowa. He does some of the things you need from a point guard…better than a 2:1 assist to TO ratio for one. He hasn’t ever become the kind of deep shooter many expected (only 27% from three last season) but he’s learned to use change of speed to at least become a decent off the dribble threat. He’s also not a great individual defender but his experience should prove valuable to the Hawks.

Peter Jok is a 6’5″ junior wing who stepped up into a much more significant role in his second year in the Iowa program, to the point that I’d expect him to be a major offensive option this season. He’s a decent shooter (36/34%) with potential to improve another level IMO. He’s got a nice combination of size and athleticism for the position as well. Ideally he’d settle for jumpers less often and use his athletic ability to get to the rim with more frequency.

Adam Woodbury is a 7foot senior center who has matured into an effective player, though one who was subject to a bit of controversy last season due to what some felt was an emphasis on cheap shots. Woodbury won’t likely ever be the kind of NBA center I think many Hawk fans thought he’d develop into when they signed him but he has become a solid low post option and a good rebounder. Iowa could probably stand to see him become more of a shot blocking presence…a 7 footer playing the kind of minutes he did should be able to walk into more than 13 blocks on the season.

Anthony “Sapp” Clemmons is a 6’1″ senior point guard from Lansing who has had an up and down career in Iowa City. He played a major role as a freshman but seemed to fall a bit out of favor as a sophomore, leading McCaffrey to recruit another point guard last season (Trey Dickerson, who lasted until February before transfering out). Clemmons made major strides as a shooter last season, hitting 37% of his threes which represented just about half of his total attempts from the floor. He’s quicker, stronger and a better defender than is Gesell and sometimes McCaffrey opts to play them together. Clemmons may or may not be a starter next season, but either way he’s likely to play significant minutes in Iowa’s rotation as an effective two-way guard.

Dom Uhl is a 6’8″ sophomore forward from Germany who showed promise during his first season in Iowa City. They think over time he can be an effective offensive threat both inside and out but last year, he wasn’t able to get much done away from the rim. However, he has the size and bounce athletically to be productive around the rim. As he gains strength, he should continue to progress into a guy capable of playing a substantial rotation role.

Brady Ellingson is a 6’4″ redshirt freshman guard whom they think can be a big time sniper down the line. He made 4 of 6 threes in his limited appearances last season before redshirting. The question with him will be how well he does other things (defend, pass, etc.) and thus how many minutes Iowa can utilize him for. As with many other teams, though, there’s always room for a guy who can hit shots, so he may carve out a rotation spot this season.