Let's Talk Playing Time

By Matthew Lundeen on October 31, 2016 at 1:00 am
So many new players and lineup possibilities, makes estimating playing time a practice in futility. But let's do it anyway!
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

So many new players and lineup possibilities, makes estimating playing time a practice in futility. But let's do it anyway!

With the season rapidly approaching, it's probably time to start talking about which players are playing and how much. Estimating playing time is always a difficult endeavor, but the amount of youth being injected into the program this season makes it damn near impossible. We know Peter Jok is going to average 30+ minutes per game when it's all said and done. Aside from that, though, well... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So what I'm going to do, is post my best guesses and discuss why I'm thinking what I'm typing. Then you can leave your guesses in the comments sections.

Let's get started.

Projected Minutes

  Player Position Min. Per Game
1 Christian Williams G 25
2 Peter Jok G 34
3 Nicholas Baer F 20
4 Dom Uhl F 28
5 Tyler Cook F 20
6 Dale Jones F 20
7 Ahmad Wagner F 20
8 Jordan Bohannon G 15
9 Brady Ellingson G 15
10 Isaiah Moss G 10
11 Cordell Pemsl F 7
12 Maishe Dailey G 2
13 Ryan Kriener F 2

With 40 minutes available every night, multiplied by five players on the court at a time, a season's minutes per game total should come out to roughly 200. It usually tends to range from 210-230 due to overtime games, and because you have guys who play a lot during the non-conference schedule and get injured or just see a drop in playing time. Those guys tend to have higher minutes early in the season, but their minutes get cut drastically and they may not even play during the conference schedule. And when everybody on the roster doesn't play in the same amount of games, it makes it so achieving a perfect 200 (or 205 with overtime), is impossible over the course of a season.

This season's projection adds up to 218, accounting for one or two overtime games and for guys toward the bottom of the list playing more early in the season and less later on. 

Projected Starters

  • Guard- Christian Williams
  • Guard- Peter Jok
  • Forward- Nicholas Baer
  • Forward- Dom Uhl
  • Forward- Tyler Cook

Position Breakdown

Traditional position designations have been mostly useless since Fran took over at Iowa, but the presence of guys like Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury made it so the point guard and center designations were still basically what they were 30 years ago. This season, though, this team is officially an amorphous blob of long, freakish athletes. With that in mind, I am still breaking the positions down individually because I think it works better for organizational purposes.

Point Guard

Starters: Christian Williams
First off the Bench: Jordan Bohannon
Others: Peter Jok

The guard positions on this team are much more set in stone than the forwards, and it all starts with Christian Williams and Peter Jok. 

Williams should be the starting point guard for this squad on opening night. McCaffery has talked about his plans for Williams being a point guard since the day he set foot on campus, and this year is his turn to take over the point full time. The thought of Williams running the point is exciting, but we should also acknowledge that it's also a bit scary at the same time. 

First of all, there should be no explanation necessary for why the prospect of a guy standing 6'5" -- with the wingspan of a 6'11" player, to boot -- playing point guard is exciting. That being said, there is a huge thing to be concerned about with Williams being the primary guy at the one, and that's the fact that he played five minutes per game in just 20 games last season. Those numbers are made even more distressing when we consider that not all his minutes even came at the point. Still, Williams is the most experienced guy directly at this position, and he showed flashes of potential at the end of last season. I think because of that he's going to get about 25 minutes per game, and probably more during Big Ten play. 

Because of Williams' youth and inexperience, though, don't be surprised when Peter Jok brings the ball down court more than we've seen before. Fran has already mentioned it numerous times this offseason, and I think it would be a good way to get him open looks from long distance and create some quick offense. We saw it in the past when Mike Gesell was younger and Iowa had the more-than-capable Devyn Marble to bring the ball up the court. The only difference between Marble and Jok, is that Marble was more of natural slasher. Jok is still trying to add that to his game. But utilizing Jok off of ball screens at the top of the perimeter would be a good way to get some quick offense when he brings the ball down the floor.

Not to be forgotten, of course, is Jordan Bohannon -- a true freshman who appears to be a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body. Bohannon's reputation is as an ace shooter from long range, so it will be interesting to see how his ball handling skills look once the season starts. Fortunately, Fran does have the option of taking some of the pressure off the youngster by again utilizing Jok to bring the ball up the court in pressure situations.

At this point, I think Bohannon's minutes are mostly mutually exclusive with Williams at the one. When Williams is on the court, Bohannon will likely be on the bench. When Bohannon is on the court, Williams will likely be getting a breather. The only exception I see to this mutually exclusive rule would be during garbage time when Fran is trying to get his young guys experience, or if he experiments with a lineup that puts Bohannon, Williams, and Jok on the floor at the same time. (I don't see that being a common lineup this season.) I think a lineup that utilizes the complementary strengths of Bohannon's shooting and Williams' attacking abilities sounds intriguing in the future, but I think we are still at least a year away.  

Shooting Guard

Starter: Peter Jok
First off the Bench: Brady Ellingson
Others: Isaiah Moss, Maishe Dailey, Jordan Bohannon

Peter Jok is your obvious starter at the two spot, but maybe my projection for his minutes are less obvious.

Allow me to explain.

If you look back on McCaffery's tenure at Iowa, his star players every season tend to average somewhere around 30-32 minutes per game. The only seasons in which that wasn't the case came during Fran's rebuilding campaign in his first two years. Because Fran hadn't quite gotten his recruits into the program and developed them yet, he relied heavily on Matt Gatens to play 33-35 minutes per game as a junior and senior. 2017 certainly looks like a rebuilding season with all the young, unproven players on the roster. Because of that, I am thinking that Jok is going to be playing Matt Gatens-level minutes because he certainly has Matt-Gatens, or even Adam Haluska-level pressure on him this season.

When Jok isn't on the court, Brady Ellingson is probably the first off the bench to spell him -- at least early in the season. Ellingson's career hasn't exactly panned out thus far, but he is still a redshirt sophomore and he should get a chance this season to show that he can be that long range gunner that we thought he could be out of high school. Time is running out, though, because if he doesn't show improvement early on this season, Isaiah Moss, Maishe Daily, or even Jordan Bohannon could push him out of the rotation. After all, McCaffery tightened both of his guard positions to a three-man rotation last year between Gesell, Clemmons, and Jok, handing a few minutes here and there to Christian Williams. If Williams, Bohannon, and Jok end up being a tight rotation this season, that means Ellingson could be battling for limited playing time if he doesn't step his game up. 

After Ellingson, Isaiah Moss should get a chance to show off his potential this season. How large of a role he's going to play, though, is still to be determined, and will probably hinge on how well he plays early in the year. We've heard comparisons of his game to Devyn Marble, but after a redshirt year last season, Fran has been unnervingly quiet about Moss this offseason. Because of that, and because he was thought of as a development project since he committed to Iowa, I'm thinking he sees a lot of playing time against non-conference foes and whatnot, but that Ellingson does enough this season to see more playing time behind Jok against more legitimate competition.

Finally, we have Maishe Dailey. An intriguing prospect, who I'm pegging for a redshirt this season. Between Williams/Bohannon and Jok/Ellingson/Moss, Iowa appears to be pretty set for guards. Dailey has outstanding athleticism and certainly turned some heads in the PTL with his shooting potential, but at only 183 lbs. for a 6'6" guy, a year getting adjusted to the college game and putting on some muscle could be a positive thing. I have him set for two minutes on the year because I could see Fran putting him in a few times against the Kennesaw State's and Stetson's of the world, but not allowing him to play enough to burn his redshirt. 

Small Forward

Starter: Nicholas Baer
First off the Bench: Dale Jones
Others: Dom Uhl, Peter Jok, Brady Ellingson, Isaiah Moss

With all the forwards on this roster, this is where it gets increasingly difficult to project playing time and starters. I've actually changed my projected starting lineup from a few weeks ago, after thinking it over. The more that I thought about it, the more I had a hard time seeing Nicholas Baer being left out of the starting lineup. Baer played way above expectations for a redshirt freshman walk-on last season, showing that he could score from multiple spots on the court, haul in rebounds, block shots, and even play the top of the 1-2-2 three-quarter court trap admirably.

Overall, I think Baer's shooting and intangibles are just too good to leave out of the starting lineup. I put him at 20 minutes along with Dale Jones and Ahmad Wagner, who should also get plenty of minutes rotating through positions three, four, and five. 

After Baer, it's not easy to say who the first person off the bench is. That's because I could very easily see Fran moving someone like Uhl from the four to the three when Baer comes out to get a breather. However, I think Dale Jones will play interchangeably between the three and four spots because of his ability to play away from the basket. I thought about him being a starter, but with him rehabbing from that knee injury, it seems much more likely that he's Iowa's top scorer coming off the bench. He will be relied on quite a bit this season, but his minutes could very well depend on how well his knee is feeling. 

Dom Uhl is my projected starter at the four position, but he's been very open that he feels most comfortable playing on the perimeter and his three-point shooting last season showed that he could definitely handle his own out there. But Uhl also showed that he can be a matchup nightmare against more traditional bigs by pulling them out of their comfort zone away from the basket, and that versatility will make it so Fran can put him at the three, four, or five depending on the type of lineup he wants to run out there at any given time. Because of that versatility, I have him playing 28 minutes per game. 

After those three, guys like Jok, Ellingson, Moss, and even Dailey should see some time at the three. But with the glut of Swiss army knives at forwards on this roster, I don't see any of those more traditional wings but Jok playing consistent minutes at the three. When it does happen, I anticipate it will be more in situations when Fran is experimenting with lineups or in garbage time against lesser competition. 

Power Forward

Starter: Dom Uhl
First off the Bench: Dale Jones/Ahmad Wagner
Others: Tyler Cook, Nicholas Baer, Cordell Pemsl, Ryan Kriener

Like small forward, power forward is also filled with a number of guys who can do a little bit of everything. I put Uhl at the four because, as I already stated, it allows him to pull more traditional big men away from the basket, while still letting him use his combination of height and athleticism to defend the post. Like I said, though, I have playing the second-most minutes of anyone on the team because of his ability to play positions three through five. Also because he is one of the best and most versatile defenders on the team.

Again, like the small forward position, it's difficult to tell who is the first off the bench because someone could just as easily slide down from the three or up from the five. But I again have Dale Jones because he has the ability to be Iowa's biggest scoring threat off the bench and his height and rebounding ability on the defensive end make it important for him to play near the basket. But, like Uhl, I can see him playing positions three through five, depending on the type of lineup that Fran wants on the court. 

I also have Wagner as a potential first option off the bench at the four. Where Jones can provide instant offense, Wagner is the better defensive option. Wagner is someone I am really excited for this season, so much so that I initially had him in my projected starting lineup a few weeks back. Wagner's athleticism -- he was a 6'7" high school wide receiver, who held a scholarship offer to play football at Kentucky -- should allow him to be one of Iowa's better rebounders and an excellent defender. I also think it will allow him to be a nice offensive option off the bench this season. I see him playing similar minutes to Baer and Jones.

Some others at this position are Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer who would appear to be in line for major minutes this season. Baer is similar to Uhl and Jones because he can play at or away from the basket on both ends of the floor. Cook is more of your traditional power forward, in that he is at his best in the paint. I see him playing a lot of minutes bouncing between the four and the five. 

The final two that round out this huge rotation are Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener. I don't have Pemsl redshirting, but I have him playing only seven minutes per game. I envision a role for him similar to Ahmad Wagner last season, but with a few less minutes per game because this steam simply has so many options in the post. I have Kriener as the other likely redshirt for this season. I think he will get some time early on against lower-level competition, but I don't think Fran will let his redshirt burn.


Starter: Tyler Cook
First off the Bench: Ahmad Wagner
Other: Dom Uhl, Dale Jones, Nicholas Baer, Cordell Pemsl, Ryan Kriener

Based on the amount of hype surrounding Tyler Cook and the fact that Fran hasn't been shy about setting expectations high for him from day one, I am projecting Cook as a four-year starter at Iowa. I think he's a legitimate contender for the second scoring option behind Peter Jok this season, and I think his talent and energy is going to be too much to keep off the court. I have him playing just as much as Baer and Wagner, as a result. Cook will be able to play the four or the five for Iowa this season, again, depending on what type of lineup Fran wants on the court.

Behind him, I think Ahmad Wagner is the first guy off the bench like he was last season. Then we have the rest of the guys I've already discussed above. Essentially, the four and five spots appear to be interchangeable with this roster. 

In total, the moving parts on this roster make it a little difficult to pin down who is starting and exactly how much playing time everyone will get. But it should also allow Iowa to experiment with a variety of interesting lineups. Any lineup that doesn't have Jordan Bohannon in it will have five players on the court that are 6'5" or taller. Any lineup that doesn't have Tyler Cook and Ahmad Wagner in it will have five guys that can fill it up from deep. And any lineup, irrespective of who is on the court, will have five guys that can run opponents out of the building. 

This roster is extremely young, which is going to make for plenty of growing pains this season. But it's also extremely versatile, and that should provide plenty of exciting moments. The future appears bright for this program, even if this season doesn't quite reach the heights we would all like.

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