How could last night's 22-point drubbing at the hands of Michigan get worse for Iowa basketball? Well, if they lost more than just the game itself. And I have some unfortunate news on that front:
Jack Nunge suffers season-ending injury: https://t.co/W2mZYUqAp3— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) February 26, 2021
Jack was really playing well & making great strides this year before another unfortunate setback. He is beloved by his teammates & everyone in our program will support Jack during his recovery. - Fran McCaffery pic.twitter.com/OMG1ShiA79
This is just truly awful, shitty, horrible, no good, very bad news. It sucks.
First of all, it sucks so much for Nunge. Season-ending injuries are a brutally cruel blow to any athlete, but it feels like an extra twist of the knife for one to happen to Nunge this year. Nunge's season last year ended prematurely due to a knee injury, an ACL tear he suffered in Iowa's sixth game of the year. If there's a silver lining to his current injury, it's that a torn meniscus isn't quite as serious as the torn ACL that he sustained last season. But still: this is awful for Nunge and we feel terrible that he's going to be out for the remainder of the season with another knee injury. On a purely human level, that just stinks, especially for a guy like Nunge, who has worked so hard to recover from previous injuries.
Second of all, this really sucks for the Iowa team as a whole. Nunge was playing the best basketball of his Iowa career this season, posting career highs in points (7.1), rebounds (5.3), and assists (1.3), while also contributing 1.2 blocks/steals per game as well. He was a key spark for Iowa off the bench in many games, sometimes as a scorer and sometimes as a rebounder. But he often made an impact with Iowa's second units and his presence will take a noticeable chunk out of Iowa's rotation.
Nunge was also Iowa's only real backup for Luka Garza. Without Nunge to spell Garza, the options are probably to play Garza more (he's averaging 30.6 minutes per game this season, though he's played 33+ minutes in six of Iowa's last eight games), play Keegan Murray in the middle, or embrace some sort of wild small-ball lineup. (There's no indication that true freshman big Josh Ogundele is ready to play meaningful minutes in Big Ten games right now.) I would guess that Iowa will try to squeeze a few more minutes out of Garza in each game to partially address Nunge's absence. Keegan Murray has been one of this season's most pleasant surprises for Iowa basketball, but putting him at the 5 is going to be challenging, given the caliber of bigs on display in the Big Ten this season. But that's probably what Iowa will have to do, at least in limited doses. There aren't any good solutions on this Iowa lineup to replace a player like Nunge, sadly.
But, again, more than anything this news really sucks for Nunge. A season-ending injury is always unfair, but for it to happen to Nunge on top of everything else he's dealt with over the past few years... ugh. Just a truly awful development. We wish Nunge nothing but the best right now and hope that he he's able to have a full and speedy recovery from this injury. Get well soon, Jack.