Iowa Basketball: What Next in 2021-22?

By RossWB on April 2, 2021 at 2:02 pm
Farewell, Hawkeyes.
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Sit down, because the next thing I have to tell you is going to be pretty shocking to hear. Are you sitting down? I hope so. I can't see you. 

But here goes: Iowa basketball is going to look a lot different next year. 

Pretty shocking(ly obvious) stuff, right? 

But seriously: Iowa basketball has been marked by an unusual amount of continuity and experience over the last few seasons. The core of Garza-Bohannon-Wieskamp has been together for three full years now. That was one of the big factors in getting us so hyped for what Iowa might be able to do this past season. Now it's time for the winds of change to blow through the Iowa basketball roster. 

The NCAA's decision to give all winter sports athletes a free year of eligibility (if the athletes wish to use it) muddies things a bit, as everyone from this year's team could return in 2021-22 if they wanted -- but we know that's not going to happen. The Garza-Bohannon-Wieskamp core is dunzo. The Peacock's incredible career has come to a conclusion and while there are still a handful of individual accolades to receive (and a jersey to retire), we've now seen the last of Luka Garza in an Iowa uniform. 

Jordan Bohannon cracked the door for a possible return next year earlier this week -- but he made that return contingent on the Iowa legislature passing a bill granting college athletes the ability to profit from their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rights. That bill died in the senate, though. Barring an extraordinary change of direction from the NCAA or federal legislation (which is coming, but probably not imminently), it seems like Bohannon will not be able to make use of his NIL rights -- and, based on his statements this week, that means his Iowa career is also done. 

Joe Wieskamp would be able to return to Iowa next season even without the NCAA's free year of eligibility -- he was just a true junior this past season -- but it doesn't seem like his current future plans involve another season in Iowa City. He hasn't provided any official statements or decisions to this point, but most observers expect him to begin his pursuit of a professional career. If that doesn't happen -- if Wieskamp does opt to return to Iowa for another year -- that would certainly change the picture for Iowa basketball next season quite a bit. Bringing back a guy who was Iowa's second-best player this season and posted a 15-7-2 line last year while shooting 49% from the floor and 46% from 3-point range (and who would be the unquestioned focus of the team next year) would dramatically change the picture for Iowa hoops next year. 

If Garza, Wieskamp, and Bohannon are gone, it means Iowa is without the players who saw the most minutes this season -- combined, that trio averaged 90 minutes a game for Iowa. They were also Iowa's three leading scorers, averaging 49.5 points per game, or 59% of Iowa's scoring per game. They also averaged 18.4 rebounds per game (46% of Iowa's rebounds per game), 7.8 assists per game (41%), 2.1 steals per game (38%), and 1.9 blocks per game (42%). They were also three of Iowa's best three-point shooters this season as well. C.J. Fredrick led the team by draining threes at a 47.4% clip (just ahead of Wieskamp's 46.2% conversion rate), but he wasn't nearly the volume shooter that they were, either -- Fredrick attempted just 76 threes this season, while Garza took 100 attempts (converting 44% of them), Wieskamp took 158 (making 46%), and Bohannon took a team-high 205 threes (draining 39% of them). 

We also found out this week that Iowa will be without the services of Jack Nunge next season, after he announced plans to transfer closer to home. Nunge wasn't a starter like the other trio, but he was one of Iowa's most productive players off the bench, averaging 7.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg. 1.3 apg, and 0.9 bpg in 16 minutes per game. Those numbers were expected to go up significantly next year with Garza's departure.

Right now Iowa has big questions next season about production -- who's going to step up to replace the scoring, rebounding, and playmaking that the Garza-Bohannon-Wieskamp (and Nunge) core provided over the past few seasons? -- and presence -- who's going to fill out the roster for this Iowa team? If neither Bohannon nor Wieskamp decide to return to Iowa next year, Iowa is set to have 10 scholarship players -- and that number includes incoming freshman Payton Sandfort (Iowa's lone current commit in the Class of 2021) and Connor McCaffery, who has labrum tears in both hips and will be undergoing "multiple" surgeries this offseason (so it's anyone's guess what condition he might be in next winter). 

Iowa basketball scholarships

Iowa has room for three more scholarship players on the roster next season (again, assuming that Bohannon and Wieskamp don't return). It seemed odd back in the fall that Iowa only added Sandfort to its 2021 recruiting class; it seems really strange now. Iowa can still add more freshmen to that class, of course -- but most of the top recruits for 2021 have already made their college decisions and signed with other schools by this point. Plus, relying on freshmen to be immediate contributors can be a fraught endeavor, especially when you're not adding frosh from near the top of the rankings. 

To fill out the roster in 2021-22, Iowa is going to need to consider all options. That will include dipping into two areas of player acquisition that Fran McCaffery has often eschewed at Iowa: the JUCO ranks and the transfer pool. The only transfers to come to Iowa during Fran's decade in charge are Jarrod Uthoff (a transfer from Wisconsin) and a Bakari Evelyn (a grad transfer from Valparaiso). Yet the transfer portal is more active than ever -- as Chad Leistikow noted for Hawk Central earlier this week, there are over 1,000 players in the transfer pool already and there will likely be hundreds more joining them there over the next few weeks, particularly if the NCAA approves a one-time transfer waiver for immediate eligibility (as they're expected to do soon). 

Right now, Iowa's starting lineup for next year would probably look something like Joe Toussaint, Tony Perkins, C.J. Fredrick, Patrick McCaffery, and Keegan Murray. That would certainly be a small-ball lineup, but right now Iowa's only true big is Josh Ogundele, and it seems unlikely he'll be ready to play 20+ minutes next year as Iowa's starting big man. The good news about that hypothetical starting lineup? It's very unlikely to be a reality next year because Iowa's lineup is going to change over the next few weeks and months. There will be roster additions (and we'd probably be naive to discount the possibility of more roster departures as well, just based on the nature of college basketball these days). 

Given the makeup of Iowa's returning players, it's basically a lock that Iowa will have a smaller, faster team next season. But big questions remain about who will provide Iowa with size next year -- and who will provide the team with scoring and outside shooting prowess. Outside of Fredrick, the only returning player on next year's team who made more than 30% of his three-point tries in 2020-21 was Tony Perkins -- and he attempted all of three shots from distance (made one). Keegan Murray and Patrick McCaffery flashed some potential from deep, but they only made 29 out of a combined 97 three-point tries, so a lot of room for improvement is certainly needed. In particular, Iowa needs to replace the three-point shooting pop that Bohannon and Wieskamp provided the past few years, but right now Fredrick is the only perimeter player Iowa returns who is an above-average 3-point shooter. 

A smaller, faster team sounds exciting -- but you still need to have some size to compete in the Big Ten. The rest of the conference isn't going exclusively small-ball, after all. Keegan Murray will play a lot next year, but hopefully mainly as a 4 in Iowa's lineups. If he has to play the 5 a lot, that's probably going to create mismatches on the defensive end that won't be in Iowa's favor. 

So I hope Fran is making up his shopping list for the offseason and identifying what he needs to add to Iowa's 2021-22 roster. For my money, the two things that need to be at the top of that list are at least one capable big man and a guard that's a credible threat from the perimeter. If Iowa goes into next season with deficiencies at those areas, it's likely to be a very long season for Iowa hoops. Let us know what areas you think Fran & Co. need to address for next year's roster in the comments below. 

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