High School: Iowa City West (IA)
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
GIA Nickname That Won't Catch On Anywhere: The Conn Man
Iowa found itself pressed into a four-guard lineup early and often in the 2019-20 season, especially in crunch-time minutes. In a conference as physical and talented as the Big Ten, that's a bold decision, but one partly of necessity and partly because, well, Connor McCaffery is that valuable. The eldest McCaffery brother took a significant step forward last season as a full-time starter, leading the team in assists while committing less than one turnover per game. C-Mac also brought his three-point shooting up to a respectable 34% on the season, shooting with a confidence that had been missing the season prior.
But what made McCaffery invaluable was his defense, finding himself matched up against any position from 1 to 4, depending on each team's personnel on the floor. At 6'5" and 205, McCaffery's closer in size to the average wing than to the prototypical B1G point guard, and he's got some dog in him if he's being forced to guard the paint or scrap for a rebound. He didn't even mind getting a little belligerent if the situation required it, and showing that kind of fire is precisely what that team needed in that moment.
Things are a little different now, aren't they? Jordan Bohannon returns, ostensibly at full health; Joe Toussaint now has a year under his belt (please don't wear a belt with your basketball shorts) and the backcourt welcomes incoming freshmen Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins. The frontcourt swaps Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener for a healed Patrick McCaffery, a healed Jack Nunge when he's ready to return, and three intriguing freshmen.
All of which to say, there's a LOT of bodies to take care of roles that Connor had to fill last season, in and out of his comfort zone. And there's still only 200 minutes on the court to be played.
Still, Connor's versatility makes him indispensable on a team like this as well. The team can still play an extremely potent four-guard lineup, and if the move is to go big, Connor's point guard mentality means a lineup of C-Mac/Wieskamp/P-Mac/Nunge/Garza is possible, which would be long and lethal.
Iowa will obviously find itself nestled comfortably between these two extremes for most of its on-court looks, but we'll be shocked if Connor McCaffery isn't repeating as one of the three highest minute-getters on the team this season. He's that important, and he's one of the main differences between a good team and a great team.