Despite initial plans to redshirt in basketball this season, Connor McCaffery will probably play for Iowa hoops this year, after all.
Iowa basketball likely got some good news this afternoon. Jon Rothstein tweeted this out, after having Fran McCaffery on his podcast today:
Iowa's Connor McCaffery is expected to play basketball this year and not redshirt, per Fran McCaffery. Official decision on Tuesday.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 30, 2017
That tweet may be a little misleading, since if you were just going off that, you would assume that this move was set in stone. And while it is basically official, there is some important context missing that you only get if you get McCaffery's actual words on the subject:
“Right now, I’d say there’s a good chance he’s going to redshirt in baseball and get his swing down," Fran McCaffery told Rothstein, "then play for us, and help us win.”
That's not a complete declaration that Connor McCaffery will indeed play basketball this season, but it is about as close as you can get until Fran and and Connor talk to Iowa baseball coach, Rick Heller. I kind of figured they would have actually talked to Heller before this came out publicly, but Heller isn't dumb; I'm sure he had a feeling this was coming. And that meeting is apparently scheduled to go down tomorrow.
Now, ignoring the fact that this announcement isn't completely official yet, it still isn't really all that surprising. I mean, Connor burning his redshirt certainly seemed very likely after Christian Williams announced his transfer last week. And once he played 18 minutes as the sole backup point guard against William Jewell this past Friday, it was only a matter of time before Fran and Connor would publicly announce that he was playing this year. And, well, here you basically have it.
With the departure of Williams, Iowa was left with the prospect of Brady Ellingson and/or Maishe Dailey playing the point guard position for about 10 minutes per game when Jordan Bohannon needed to catch his breath. And while both of those guys have certain intriguing skillsets, neither of them is really a point guard. McCaffery, on the other hand, has actually played the point before, and done so for Iowa, thanks to action in five exhibition games this summer and last week.
Along with experience playing the point guard position, Connor was also a highly-rated recruit -- 247 had him listed as a three star prospect, while Rivals and ESPN both gave him four stars. (ESPN even went so far as to rank him #92 in the country in last year's class.) At 6'5" and 200 lbs., he is already physically ready for college ball, and seeing how he's a coach's son, he should be mentally ready too.
McCaffery obviously slides into the backup point guard spot behind Jordan Bohannon, and how much playing time he sees there will likely depend on how good he looks from day one. Before McCaffery decided to play this season, Bohannon was almost-guaranteed to be penciled in for 30+ minutes per night against good competition. Now that Fran's eldest son is in the fold, though, this could mean a little more rest for Bohannon, and I would imagine something like 12-15 minutes per night at the point guard spot for Connor against quality teams, and 15-20 minutes against Iowa's early season dregs.
This announcement obviously bolsters Iowa's thinnest position immediately. What this also does, however, is give Fran more lineup options.
Kind of like this lineup with Bohannon at the 2 and Connor running the point. Iowa pushes their lead to 82-63 with 8:44 left in the game.— Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport) October 28, 2017
This was one of the tweets I found most intriguing from the William Jewell game. (I'm sorry, but I'm not paying for BTN Plus for one October game.) Of course, with Isaiah Moss, Brady Ellingson, and some minutes here and there for Maishe Daily at the shooting guard position, this probably won't be a real frequently-used lineup. That said, I am salivating at the thought of watching Jordan Bohannon run through baseline screens and knock down threes.
The loss of Christian Williams certainly hurts Iowa from a defensive perspective. But barring any wild improvements in Williams' offensive game, Iowa is probably only losing 10 minutes or so of that defense per game against legitimate competition. Moreover, anything that Williams was giving Iowa on defense, he was probably giving back to the other team on the other end of the court. We don't know about his defense quite yet, but McCaffery should be an overall net positive from day one. Considering he has been around the Hawkeye program since 2010 and committed since 2014, Connor almost certainly possesses a knowledge of his father's system that no other incoming recruit could possibly have.
Connor's decision may be a blow to Iowa baseball in the short term, but it is most definitely a positive for Iowa basketball right now.