Let's Talk Iowa Basketball Scholarships

By RossWB on October 31, 2016 at 7:00 am
Fran thinkin'
Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

It's basically the elephant in the room when it comes to Iowa basketball this year, so let's talk about it -- "it" being Iowa's scholarship situation. Here's a breakdown of what Iowa's scholarship situation looks like for the next four seasons (which you can always find on our Basketball Scholarship Grid page), based on players currently under scholarship or who have officially given a verbal commitment to Iowa. (My understanding is that Patrick McCaffery has not yet given an "official" verbal commitment -- and, yes, feel free to marinate in that particular oxymoronic phrase -- but c'mon -- he's totally coming to Iowa to play for his dad.) 

  2016-17 (0 open) 2017-18 (-2 open) 2018-19 (-1 open) 2019-20 (2 open)
1 Peter Jok Dominique Uhl Brady Ellingson* Isaiah Moss*
2 Dale Jones* Dale Jones* Ahmad Wagner Cordell Pemsl
3 Dominique Uhl Brady Ellingson* Christian Williams Ryan Kriener
4 Brady Ellingson* Ahmad Wagner Nicholas Baer* Jordan Bohannon
5 Ahmad Wagner Christian Williams Isaiah Moss* Tyler Cook
6 Christian Williams Nicholas Baer* Cordell Pemsl Maishe Dailey
7 Nicholas Baer* Isaiah Moss* Ryan Kriener Connor McCaffery
8 Isaiah Moss* Cordell Pemsl Jordan Bohannon Luka Garza
9 Cordell Pemsl Ryan Kriener Tyler Cook Jack Nunge
10 Ryan Kriener Jordan Bohannon Maishe Dailey Joe Wieskamp
11 Jordan Bohannon Tyler Cook Connor McCaffery Patrick McCaffery
12 Tyler Cook Maishe Dailey Luka Garza  
13 Maishe Dailey Connor McCaffery Jack Nunge  
**14   Luka Garza Joe Wieskamp  
**15   Jack Nunge    
  Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman

* used redshirt
** Iowa doesn't actually have 14-15 scholarships, so something has to give, obviously.

As you're probably aware, the scholarship math simply doesn't work for the next two seasons -- Iowa has committed more scholarships than it has to actually give out. (They're presently two over the 13-scholarship limit for 2017-18 and one over the limit for 2018-19.) Even if Connor McCaffery, another McCaffery scion, opts to walk-on next year (as has been oft-discussed), Iowa will still be one over the scholarship limit and need to free up a scholarship somehow. 

This is, obviously, not a great situation to be in, roster management-wise.  Let's call it what it is: oversigning.  Ethically speaking, oversigning is pretty gross -- signing more players than you have room for and forcing out existing players to make room for the new kids is shady as all hell and a violation of the implicit contract a coach makes with a player when he recruits him.  We've railed against SEC coaches for doing it in the past, as well as certain Big Ten coaches who engage in the practice from time to time (including one whose name rhymes with "Bomb Bean"). I certainly hope that this doesn't become a regular phenomenon at Iowa.  

On the other hand, the current environment of college basketball is one where player transfers are less the exception and more the norm.  Players increasingly don't want to sit at programs and wait their turn behind upperclasmen -- if they aren't getting an opportunity, they're often ready, willing, and eager to transfer to a new school where they can showcase their talents on the court. The proliferation of media rights and scouting services, as well as the increase in NBA scouting manpower, means that players can go almost anywhere and still have a shot to be seen by professional scouts.  You don't need to go to a big school or play in a major conference to be seen the way you might have needed to do in the past -- if you're good, the NBA (or Europe) will find you. The only way they won't be able to find you is if you're sitting on the bench somewhere and not playing.  

Next spring, a player -- or players -- will announce his decision to transfer away from Iowa. This will happen and odds are good that it would happen even if Iowa didn't need it to happen because of the problematic situation with their scholarship math; it will happen because right now transfer-based player attrition is a regular part of college basketball. Will that decision to transfer be because Fran was "pushing him out the door" to make room for an incoming recruit, or will it be because he was frustrated with his opportunity at Iowa and is leaving to pursue an opportunity somewhere else? The truth could -- and probably will -- be somewhere in the middle (to say nothing of additional complicating factors like homesickness, family issues, academic problems, or other things that can influence decisions to transfer). 

tl;dr -- basketball recruiting can be a very tricky and complicated endeavor and it doesn't necessarily stop being uncomfortable after the players get on campus. 

Now let's take a look at the scholarship situation from a depth chart perspective: 


Obviously the first thing to note when looking at this breakdown is that positional assignments are hardly etched in stone and this is especially true at Iowa where guys can (and will) play multiple positions. 

Iowa lacks experience at point guard after the departures of Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons, but they have several guys who look like they can do the job there once they get more experience. Jok's emergence on the wing has given Iowa an excellent starter at that spot, but the future looks shaky when he departs after this year. Iowa's long term future on the wing looks promising given the verbal commitments of Joe Wieskamp and Patrick McCaffery, who could wind up being two of the most highly-touted recruits of the McCaffery Era based on the early buzz, but considering that they won't get here until 2018 (Wieskamp) and 2019 (P-Mac), there may be some growing pains for Iowa at that position in the short term.  (It would really help if Isaiah Moss develops into a solid player.) That said, Dailey and Williams seem very combo guard-y, so they may be able to play minutes at the 2 as well. 

On the flip side, Iowa appears to have a lot of options in the front court -- and a lot of extremely versatile options, at that.  Guys like Baer, Uhl, and Pemsl seem like they may be able to play both forward positions, while guys like Cook, Wagner, and Kriener seem likely to be able to slide between the 4 and the 5.  Iowa's added more options there as well in Nunge and Garza, both of whom figure to bring some height (they're listed at 6-10 and 6-11, respectively) to Iowa's front court when they arrive. 

Given the youth of Iowa's current roster and the crop of verbal commitments Iowa has (between the McCaffery boys, Wieskamp, Garza, and Nunge, five of Iowa's future scholarships are claimed right now), Iowa doesn't have much room to add too many new players for a while (that is, unless current players leave or existing commits de-commit). The good news is that there also don't appear to be a lot of glaring holes in the Iowa lineup going forward. There is some definite uncertainty in the back court beyond Jok, but hopefully we'll have a better grasp of our options there after a year's worth of watching Williams, Bohannon, Moss, etc. 

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