As first reported by Andy Garman, Nicholas Baer will miss 3-4 weeks with a broken pinky finger. He suffered the injury in a weekend practice, according to Hawkeyesports.com, but it will not require surgery.
SCOOP: Iowa forward Nicholas Baer fractured a finger in practice this weekend, may miss 3-4 weeks.— Andy Garman (@GarmanSports) November 6, 2017
This is one of the biggest losses Iowa could suffer. Baer, the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year last season, was expected to either start at small forward this season or continue his role as a spark plug off the bench, while maintaining starter minutes. He averaged 7.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on 44.8 percent shooting from the field and 39.7 percent shooting from three last season. Baer was arguably Iowa's best all-around player last season, becoming the fourth player in school history to lead the team with steals and blocks in the same season.
Ahmad Wagner is now Iowa's expected starting small forward when it opens its season at home on Friday against Chicago State. Wagner started at small forward last season and in Iowa's second exhibition game against Belmont Abbey last week. Baer's injury should also open playing time for 6-11 freshman Jack Nunge, who played very well against Belmont Abbey, and possibly Dom Uhl, especially in blowouts.
Despite the massive hole Baer's injury leaves, it's better it occurred now rather than later in the season. The Hawkeyes have a very manageable schedule to start the year.
Three weeks from today would be November 27 and four weeks would be December 4. That puts his return around Iowa's Big Ten/ACC challenge opponent, Virginia Tech, on November 28 and Penn State and Indiana in Iowa's two early conference games in early December.
Not having Baer would be a huge loss in those games, even if Fran McCaffery has time to develop his rotation. However, Iowa's opponents up to its meeting with Virginia Tech include Chicago State, Alabama State, Grambling State and the Cayman Islands Classic, where only a potential championship matchup against Cincinnati would be too challenging. Iowa certainly would rather have Baer on the court for these games, but Iowa should still have a strong start to the season without him, especially if he returns in three weeks.
Our first chance to see Iowa's rotation without Baer will be on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 8:05 p.m. against Chicago State.